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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 
Brigham Young University-Idaho 



http://www.archive.org/details/wellbelovedsketc00hard1 







Stye IWt-Stflnnrt 



A SKETCH OF 
A TEMPERAMENT 



BY 

QUjnmaa faring 



• One shape of many names."—?. B. Shelley 




^ 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

HARPER 6- BROTHERS 

PUBLISHERS :: MCMV 



Copyright, 1892, 1897, by Harper & Brothers. 



All flights reserved. 



PREFACE 



The peninsula carved by time out of a single 
stone, whereon most of the following scenes are 
laid, has been for centuries immemorial the home 
of a curious and almost distinctive people, cherish- 
ing strange beliefs and singular customs, now for 
the most part obsolescent. Fancies, like certain 
soft - wooded plants which cannot bear the silent 
inland frosts, but thrive by the sea in the roughest 
of weather, seem to grow up naturally here, in par- 
ticular among those natives who have no active 
concern in the labors of the "isle." Hence it is a 
spot apt to generate a type of personage like the 
character imperfectly sketched in these pages — a 
native of natives — whom some may choose to call 
a fantast (if they honor him with their considera- 
tion so far), but whom others may see only as one 
that gave objective continuity and a name to a 
delicate dream which in a vaguer form is more or 
less common to all men, and is by no means new 
to Platonic philosophers. 

iii 



PREFACE 

To those who know the rocky coigne of England 
here depicted — overlooking the great Channel 
highway with all its suggestiveness, and standing 
out so far into mid - sea that touches of the Gulf 
Stream soften the air till February — it is matter of 
surprise that the place has not been more frequent- 
ly chosen as the retreat of artists and poets in 
search of inspiration, for at least a month or two in 
the year — the tempestuous rather than the fine sea- 
sons by preference. To be sure, one nook therein is 
the retreat, at their country's expense, of other gen- 
iuses from a distance ; but their presence is hardly 
discoverable. Yet perhaps it is as well that the 
artistic visitors do not come, or no more would be 
heard of little freehold houses being bought and 
sold there for a couple of hundred pounds — built 
of solid stone, and dating from the sixteenth centu- 
ry and earlier, with mullions, copings, and corbels 
complete. These transactions, by-the-way, are car- 
ried out and covenanted, or were till lately, in the 
parish church, in the face of the congregation, such 
being the ancient custom of the " isle." 

The present is the first publication of this tale 
in an independent form ; and a few chapters have 
been rewritten since it was issued in the periodical 
press in 1892. 

T. H. 

January \ 1897. 

iv 



CONTENTS 



PART FIRST 

A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

PAGE 

I. A Supposititious Presentment of Her . . 3 

II. The Incarnation is Assumed to be True . 11 

III. The Appointment 22 

IV. A Lonely Pedestrian 26 

V. A Charge „ 33 

VI. On the Brink 44 

VII. Her Earlier Incarnations 51 

VIII. "Too Like the Lightning" 62 

IX. Familiar Phenomena in the Distance . . 74 



PART SECOND 

A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

I. The Old Phantom Becomes Distinct . . 83 

II. She Draws Close and Satisfies .... 99 

III. She Becomes an Inaccessible Ghost . . . 109 

IV. She Threatens to Resume Corporeal Sub- 

stance 122 

v 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

V. The Resumption Takes Place 130 

VI. The Past Shines in the Present. . . . 136 

VII. The New Becomes Established .... 148 

VIII. His Own Soul Confronts Him 159 

IX. Juxtapositions 167 

X. She Fails to Vanish Still 180 

XI. The Image Persists 190 

XII. A Grille Descends Between 199 

XIII. She is Enshrouded from Sight .... 214 



PART THIRD 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 



I. She Returns for the New Season . 
II. Misgivings on the Re-embodiment . 

III. The Renewed Image Burns Itself In 

IV. A Dash for the Last Incarnation . 
V. On the Verge of Possession . . . 

VI. The Well-Beloved is — Where? . . 
VII. An Old Tabernacle in a New Aspect 
VIII. "Alas for this Gray Shadow, Once a 
Man!" 



223 

239 
250 
262 
277 
292 
311 

321 



PART FIRST 
A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 



" Now, if Time knows 
That Her, whose radiant brows 
Weave them a garland of my vows ; 

Her that dares be 

What these lines wish to see : 

I seek ho further, it is She," 

-i-R. Crashaw, 



9 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



i 

A SUPPOSITITIOUS PRESENTMENT OF HER 

A PERSON who differed from the local way- 
farers was climbing the steep road which leads 
through the sea-skirted townlet definable as 
the Street of Wells and forms a pass into 
that Gibraltar of Wessex, the singular penin- 
sula once an island, and still called such, that 
stretches out like the head of a bird into the 
English Channel. It is connected with the 
mainland by a long thin neck of pebbles " cast 
up by rages of the se,' and unparalleled in its 
kind in Europe. 

The pedestrian was what he looked like — a 
young man from London and the cities of the 
Continent. Nobody could see at present that 
his urbanism sat upon him only as a garment. 
He was just recollecting with something of 

3 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

self-reproach that a whole three years and 
eight months had flown since he paid his 
last visit to his father at this lonely rock of 
his birthplace, the intervening time having 
been spent amid many contrasting societies, 
peoples, manners, and scenes. 

What had seemed usual in the isle when he 
lived there always looked quaint and odd after 
his later impressions. More than ever the 
spot seemed what it was said once to have 
been, the ancient Vindilia Island, and the 
Home of the Slingers. The towering rock, 
the houses above houses, one man's doorstep 
rising behind his neighbor's chimney, the 
gardens hung up by one edge to the sky, the 
vegetables growing on apparently almost ver- 
tical planes, the unity of the whole island as 
a solid and single block of limestone four 
miles long, were no longer familar and com- 
monplace ideas. All now stood dazzlingly 
unique and white against the tinted sea, and 
the sun flashed on infinitely stratified walls 

of oolite, 

"The melancholy ruins 
Of cancelled cycles," . . . 

with a distinctiveness that call the eyes to it 
as strongly as any spectacle he had beheld afar. 

4 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

After a laborious clamber he reached the 
top, and walked along the plateau towards 
the eastern village. The time being about 
two o'clock, in the middle of the summer 
season, the road was glaring and dusty, and 
drawing near to his father's house he sat down 
in the sun. 

He stretched out his hand upon the rock 
beside him. It felt warm. That was the 
island's personal temperature when in its 
afternoon sleep, as now. He listened, and 
heard sounds : whir-whir, saw-saw-saw. Those 
were the island's snores — the noises of the 
quarrymen and stone-sawyers. 

Opposite to the spot on which he sat was a 
roomy cottage or homestead. Like the island 
it was all of stone, not only in walls but in 
window-frames, roof, chimneys, fence, stile, 
pigsty and stable, almost door. 

He remembered who had used to live there 
— and probably lived there now — the Caro fam- 
ily; the " roan-mare" Caros, as they were called 
to distinguish them from other branches of the 
same pedigree, there being but half a dozen 
Christian names and surnames in the whole 
island. He crossed the road and looked in at 
the open doorway. Yes, there they were still. 

5 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Mrs. Caro, who had seen him from the 
window, met him in the entry, and an old- 
fashioned greeting took place between them. 
A moment after a door leading from the back 
rooms was thrown open, and a young girl 
about seventeen or eighteen came bounding 
in. 

" Why, 'tis dear Joce !" she burst out joy- 
fully. And running up to the young man, 
she kissed him. 

The demonstration was sweet enough from 
the owner of such an affectionate pair of 
bright hazel eyes and brown tresses of hair. 
But it was so sudden, so unexpected by a 
man fresh from towns, that he winced for a 
moment quite involuntarily ; and there was 
some constraint in the manner in which he re- 
turned her kiss, and said, " My pretty little 
Avice, how do you do after so long?" 

For a few seconds her impulsive innocence 
hardly noticed his start of surprise ; but Mrs. 
Caro, the girl's mother, had observed it in- 
stantly. With a pained flush she turned to 
her daughter. 

" Avice — my dear Avice ! Why — what are 
you doing ? Don't you know that you've 
grown up to be a woman since Jocelyn — Mr. 

a 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

Pierston — was last down here? Of course 
you mustn't do now as you used to do three 
or four years ago !" 

The awkwardness which had arisen was 
hardly removed by Pierston's assurance that 
he quite expected her to keep up the practice 
of her childhood, followed by several minutes 
of conversation on general subjects. He was 
vexed from his soul that his unaware move- 
ment should so have betrayed him. At his 
leaving he repeated that if Avice regarded him 
otherwise than as she used to do he would 
never forgive her; but though they parted 
good friends, her regret at the incident was 
visible in her face. Jocelyn passed out into 
the road and onward to his father's house hard 
by. The mother and daughter were left alone. 

" I was quite amazed at 'ee, my child !" ex- 
claimed the elder. " A young man from Lon- 
don and foreign cities, used now to the strictest 
company manners, and ladies who almost think 
it vulgar to smile broad ! How could ye do it, 
Avice ?" 

" I — I didn't think about how I was altered !" 
said the conscience-stricken girl. " I used to 
kiss him, and he used to kiss me before he 
went away." 

B 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" But that was years ago, my dear !" 

" Oh yes, and for the moment I forgot ! He 
seemed just the same to me as he used to be." 

" Well, it can't be helped now. You must be 
careful in the future. He's got lots of young 
women, I'll warrant, and has few thoughts left 
for you. He's what they call a sculptor, and 
he means to be a great genius in that line some 
day, they do say." 

" Well, I've done it, and it can't be mended !" 
moaned the girl. 

Meanwhile Jocelyn Pierston, the sculptor of 
budding fame, had gone onward to the house 
of his father, an inartistic man of trade and 
commerce merely, from whom, nevertheless, 
Jocelyn accepted a yearly allowance pending 
the famous days to come. But the elder, hav- 
ing received no warning of his son's intended 
visit, was not at home to receive him. Jocelyn 
looked round the familiar premises, glanced 
across the Common at the great yards, within 
which eternal saws were going to and fro upon 
eternal blocks of stone — the very same saws 
and the very same blocks that he had seen there 
when last in the island, so it seemed to him — 
and then passed through the dwelling into the 
back garden. 

8 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

Like all the gardens in the isle it was sur- 
rounded by a wall of dry-jointed spawls, and 
at its farther extremity it ran out into a corner, 
which adjoined the garden of the Caros. He 
had no sooner reached this spot than he be- 
came aware of a murmuring and sobbing on 
the other side of the wall. The voice he recog- 
nized in a moment as Avice's, and she seemed 
to be confiding her trouble to some young 
friend of her own sex. 

" Oh, what shall I do I what shall I do !" she 
was saying bitterly. " So bold as it was — so 
shameless! How could I think of such a 
thing ! He will never forgive me — never, 
never like me again ! He'll think me a for- 
ward hussy, and yet — and yet I quite forgot 
how much I had grown. But that he'll never 
believe !" The accents were those of one who 
had for the first time become conscious of her 
womanhood, as an unwonted possession which 
shamed and frightened her. 

:< Did he seem angry at it ?" inquired the 
friend. 

" Oh no — not angry! Worse. Cold and 
haughty. Oh, he's such a fashionable person 
now — not at all an island man. But there's 
no use in talking of it. I wish I was dead !" 

r > 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



Pierston retreated as quickly as he could. 
He grieved at the incident which had brought 
such pain to this innocent soul ; and yet it was 
beginning to be a source of vague pleasure to 
him. He returned to the house, and when his 
father had come back and welcomed him, and 
they had shared a meal together, Jocelyn again 
went out, full of an earnest desire to soothe 
his young neighbor's sorrow in a way she little 
expected ; though, to tell the truth, his affec- 
tion for her was rather that of a friend than of 
a lover, and he felt by no means sure that the 
migratory, elusive idealization he called his 
love, who, ever since his boyhood, had flitted 
from human shell to human shell an indefinite 
number of times, was going to take up her 
abode in the body of Avice Caro. 



II 

THE INCARNATION IS ASSUMED TO BE TRUE 

It was difficult to meet her again, even 
though on this lump of rock the difficulty- 
lay as a rule rather in avoidance than in meet- 
ing. But Avice had been transformed into a 
very different kind of young woman by the 
self-consciousness engendered of her impul- 
sive greeting, and, notwithstanding their near 
neighborhood, he could not encounter her, try 
as he would. No sooner did he appear an inch 
beyond his father's door than she was to earth 
like a fox ; she bolted up-stairs to her room. 

Anxious to soothe her after his unintentional 
slight, he could not stand these evasions long. 
The manners of the isle were primitive and 
straightforward, even among the well-to-do ; 
and noting her disappearance one day, he fol- 
lowed her into the house and onward to the 
foot of the stairs. 

" Avice!" he called. 

ii 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Yes, Mr. Pierston." 

" Why do you run up-stairs like that ?" 

"Oh — only because I wanted to come up 
for something." 

" Well, if you've got it, can't you come down 
again ?" 

" No, I can't very well." 

" Come, dear Avice. That's what you are, 
you know." 

There was no response. 

" Well, if you won't, you won't !" he con- 
tinued. " I don't want to bother you." And 
Pierston went away. 

He was stopping to look at the old-fashioned 
flowers under the garden walls when he heard 
a voice behind him. 

"Mr. Pierston — I wasn't angry with you. 
When you were gone I thought — you might 
mistake me, and I felt I could do no less than 
come and assure you of my friendship still." 

Turning, he saw the blushing Avice immedi- 
ately behind him. 

" You are a good, dear girl !" said he, and, 
seizing her hand, set upon her cheek the kind 
of kiss that should have been the response to 
hers on the day of his coming. 

" Darling Avice, forgive me for the slight 

12 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

that day! Say you do. Come, now! And 
then I'll say to you what I have never said to 
any other woman, living or dead : ' Will you 
have me as your husband?' " 

" Ah ! — mother says I am only one of many !" 

"You are not, dear. You knew me when I 
was young, and others didn't." 

Somehow or other her objections were got 
over, and though she did not give an immedi- 
ate assent, she agreed to meet him later in the 
afternoon, when she walked with him to the 
southern point of the island called the Beal, or, 
by strangers, the Bill, pausing over the treacher- 
ous cavern known as Cave Hole, into which 
the sea roared and splashed now as it had done 
when they visited it together as children. To 
steady herself while looking in he offered her 
his arm, and she took it — for the first time as 
a woman, for the hundredth time as his com- 
panion. 

They rambled on to the light-house, where 
they would have lingered longer if Avice had 
not suddenly remembered an engagement to 
recite poetry from a platform that very even- 
ing at the Street of Wells, the village com- 
manding the entrance to the island — the vil- 
lage that has now advanced to be a town. 

13 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Recite!" said he. " Who'd have thought 
anybody or anything could recite down here, 
except the reciter we hear away there — the 
never speechless sea." 

" Oh, but we are quite intellectual now ; in 
the winter, particularly. But, Jocelyn — don't 
come to the recitation, will you ? It would 
spoil my performance if you were there, and I 
want to be as good as the rest." 

" I won't if you really wish me not to. But 
I shall meet you at the door and bring you 
home." 

"Yes!" she said, looking up into his face. 
Avice was perfectly happy now; she could 
never have believed on that mortifying day of 
his coming that she would be so happy with 
him. When they reached the east side of the 
isle they parted, that she might be soon enough 
to take her place on the platform. Pierston 
went home, and after dark, when it was about 
the hour for accompanying her back, he went 
along the middle road northward to the Street 
of Wells. 

He was full of misgiving. He had known 
Avice Caro so well of old that his feeling for her 
now was rather comradeship than love ; and 
what he had said to her in a moment of im- 

14 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

pulse that morning rather appalled him in its 
consequences. Not that any of the more so- 
phisticated and accomplished women who had 
attracted him successively would be likely to 
rise inconveniently between them. For he had 
quite disabused his mind of the assumption 
that the idol of his fancy was an integral part 
of the personality in which it had sojourned 
for a long or a short while. 

To his Well -Beloved he had always been 
faithful ; but she had had many embodiments. 
Each individuality known as Lucy, Jane, 
Flora, Evangeline, or what - not, had been 
merely a transient condition of her. He did 
not recognize this as an excuse or as a defence, 
but as a fact simply. Essentially she was per- 
haps of no tangible substance ; a spirit, a 
dream, a frenzy, a conception, an aroma, an 
epitomized sex, a light of the eye, a parting 
of the lips. God only knew what she really 
was ; Pierston did not. She was indescriba- 
ble. 

Never much considering that she was a sub- 
jective phenomenon vivified by the weird in- 
fluences of his descent and birthplace, the dis- 
covery of her ghostliness, of her independence 

i5 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

of physical laws and failings, had occasionally 
given him a sense of fear. He never knew 
where she next would be, whither she would 
lead him, having herself instant access to all 
ranks and classes, to every abode of men. 
Sometimes at night he dreamed that she was 
" the wile-weaving Daughter of high Zeus" in 
person, bent on tormenting him for his sins 
against her beauty in his art — the implacable 
Aphrodite herself indeed. He knew that he 
loved the masquerading creature wherever he 
found her, whether with blue eyes, black eyes, 
or brown ; whether presenting herself as tall, 
fragile, or plump. She was never in two 
places at once ; but hitherto she had never 
been in one place long. 

By making this clear to his mind some time 
before to-day, he had escaped a good deal of 
ugly self-reproach. It was simply that she 
who always attracted him, and led him whither 
she would as by a silken thread, had not re- 
mained the occupant of the same fleshly taber- 
nacle in her career so far. Whether she would 
ultimately settle down to one he could not 
say. 

Had he felt that she was becoming manifest 
in Avice, he would have tried to believe that 

16 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

this was the terminal spot of her migrations, 
and have been content to abide by his words. 
But did he see the Well-Beloved in Avice at 
all ? The question was somewhat disturbing. 

He had reached the brow of the hill, and 
descended towards the village, where in the 
long, straight, Roman street he soon found the 
lighted hall. The performance was not yet 
over; and by going round to the side of the 
building and standing on a mound he could 
see the interior as far down as the platform 
level. Avice's turn, or second turn, came on 
almost immediately. Her pretty embarrass- 
ment on facing the_ audience rather won him 
away from his doubts. She was, in truth, 
what is called a " nice " girl ; attractive, cer- 
tainly, but above all things nice — one of the 
class with whom the risks of matrimony ap- 
proximate most nearly to zero. Her intelli- 
gent eyes, her broad forehead, her thoughtful 
carriage, insured one thing, that of all the 
girls he had known he had never met one 
with more charming and solid qualities than 
Avice Caro's. This was not a mere conjecture 
— he had known her long and thoroughly; 
her every mood and temper. 

A heavy wagon passing without drowned 

h 17 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

her small, soft voice for him ; but the audience 
were pleased, and she blushed at their ap- 
plause. He now took his station at the door, 
and when the people had done pouring out he 
found her within awaiting him. 

They climbed homeward slowly by the Old 
Road, Pierston dragging himself up the steep 
by the wayside hand-rail and pulling Avice 
after him upon his arm. At the top they 
turned and stood still. To the left of them 
the sky was streaked like a fan with the light- 
house rays, and under their front, at periods 
of a quarter of a minute, there arose a deep, 
hollow stroke like the single beat of a drum, 
the intervals being filled with a long-drawn 
rattling, as of bones between huge canine 
jaws. It came from the vast concave of Dead- 
man's Bay, rising and falling against the peb- 
ble dike. 

The evening and night winds here were, to 
Pierston's mind, charged with a something 
that did not burden them elsewhere. They 
brought it up from that sinister bay to the 
west, whose movement she and he were hear- 
ing now. It was a presence — an imaginary 
shape or essence from the human multitude 
lying below: those who had gone down in 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

vessels of war, East- Indiamen, barges, brigs, 
and ships of the Armada — select people, com- 
mon, and debased, whose interests and hopes 
had been as wide asunder as the poles, but 
who had rolled each other to oneness on that 
restless sea-bed. There could almost be felt 
the brush of their huge composite ghost as it 
ran a shapeless figure over the isle, shrieking 
for some good god who would disunite it 
again. 

The twain wandered a long way that night 
amid these influences — so far as to the old Hope 
Church-yard, which lay in a ravine formed by 
a landslip ages ago. The church had slipped 
down with the rest of the cliff, and had long 
been a ruin. It seemed to say that in this last 
local stronghold of the pagan divinities, where 
pagan customs lingered yet, Christianity had 
established itself precariously at best. In that 
solemn spot Pierston kissed her. 

The kiss was by no means on Avice's initia- 
tive this time. Her former demonstrativeness 
seemed to have increased her present reserve. 

That day was the beginning of a pleasant 
month passed mainly in each other's society. 
He found that she could not only recite poetry 

19 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



at intellectual gatherings, but play the piano 
fairly, and sing to her own accompaniment. 

He observed that every aim of those w r ho 
had brought her up had been to get her away 
mentally as far as possible from her natural 
and individual life as an inhabitant of a pecul- 
iar island ; to make her an exact copy of tens 
of thousands of other people, in whose circum- 
stances there was nothing special, distinctive, 
or picturesque ; to teach her to forget all the 
experiences of her ancestors ; to drown the 
local ballads by songs purchased at the Bud- 
mouth fashionable music-sellers', and the local 
vocabulary by a governess-tongue of no coun- 
try at all. She lived in a house that would 
have been the fortune of an artist, and learned 
to draw London suburban villas from printed 
copies. 

Avice had seen all this before he pointed it 
out, but, with a girl's tractability, had acqui- 
esced. By constitution she was local to the 
bone, but she could not escape the tendency 
of the age. 

The time for Jocelyn's departure drew near, 
and she looked forward to it sadly, but serenely, 
their engagement being now a settled thing. 
Pierston thought of the native custom on such 

3Q 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

occasions, which had prevailed in his and her 
family for centuries, both being of the old stock 
of the isle. The influx of " kimberlins," or 
" foreigners " (as strangers from the mainland 
of Wessex were called), had led in a large 
measure to its discontinuance ; but underneath 
the veneer of Avice's education many an old- 
fashioned idea lay slumbering, and he won- 
dered if, in her natural melancholy at his leav- 
ing, she regretted the changing manners which 
made unpopular the formal ratification of a 
betrothal, according to the precedent of their 
sires and grandsires. 



Ill 



THE APPOINTMENT 



" Well," said he, " here we are, arrived at 
the fag-end of my holiday. What a pleasant 
surprise my old home, which I have not 
thought worth coming to see for three or four 
years, had in store for me !" 

" You must go to-morrow?" she asked, un- 
easily. 

"Yes." 

Something seemed to overweigh them ; some- 
thing more than the natural sadness of a part- 
ing which was not to be long ; and he decided 
that instead of leaving in the daytime as he 
had intended, he would defer his departure till 
night, and go by the mail-train from Budmouth. 
This would give him time to look into his 
father's quarries, and enable her, if she chose, 
to walk with him along the beach as far as to 
Henry the Eighth's Castle above the sands, 
where they could linger and watch the moon 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

rise over the sea. She said she thought she 
could come. 

So after spending the next day with his 
father in the quarries, Jocelyn prepared to 
leave, and at the time appointed set out from 
the stone house of his birth in this stone isle 
to walk to Budmouth-Regis by the path along 
the beach, Avice having some time earlier gone 
down to see some friends in the Street of Wells, 
which was half-way towards the spot of their 
tryst. The descent soon brought him to the 
pebble bank, and leaving behind him the last 
houses of the isle, and the ruins of the village 
destroyed by the November gale of 1824, he 
struck out along the narrow thread of land. 
When he had walked a hundred yards he 
stopped, turned aside to the pebble ridge 
which walled out the sea, and sat down to wait 
for her. 

Between him and the lights of the ships rid- 
ing at anchor in the roadstead two men passed 
slowly in the direction he intended to pursue. 
One of them recognized Jocelyn, and bade 
him good-night, adding, "Wish you joy, sir, 
of your choice, and hope the wedden will be 
soon ! 

u Thank you, Seaborn. Well — we shall see 

C 23 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

what Christmas will do towards bringing it 
about." 

" My wife opened upon it this mornen : 
1 Please God, I'll up and see that there wed- 
den,' says she, ' knowing 'em both from their 
crawling-days.' M 

The men moved on, and when they were 
out of Pierston's hearing the one who had 
not spoken said to his friend, " Who was that 
young kimberlin ? He don't seem one o' we." 

" Oh, he is, though, every inch o' en. He's 
Mr. Jocelyn Pierston, the stwone-merchant's 
only son up at East Quarriers. He's to be 
married to a stylish young body ; her mother, 
a widow woman, carries on the same business 
as well as she can ; but their trade is not a 
twentieth part of Pierston's. He's worth thou- 
sands and thousands, they say, though 'a do 
live on in the same wold way up in the same 
wold house. This son is doen great things in 
London as 'a image-carver; and I can mind 
when, as a boy, 'a first took to carving soldiers 
out o' bits o' stwone from the soft-bed of his 
father's quarries; and then 5 a made a set o' 
stwonen chess-men, and so 'a got on. He's 
quite the gent in London, they tell me ; and 
the wonder is that 'a cared to come back here 

24 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

and pick up little Avice Caro — nice maid as 
she is notwithstanding. . . . Hullo ! there's 
to be a change in the weather soon." 

Meanwhile the subject of their remarks 
waited at the appointed place till seven o'clock, 
the hour named between himself and his affi- 
anced, had struck. Almost at the moment he 
saw a figure coming forward from the last 
lamp at the bottom of the hill. But the figure 
speedily resolved itself into that of a boy, who, 
advancing to Jocelyn, inquired if he were Mr. 
Pierston, and handed him a note. 



IV 



A LONELY PEDESTRIAN 



When the boy had gone Jocelyn retraced 
his steps to the last lamp, and read, in Avice's 
hand : 

" My Dearest, — I shall be sorry if I grieve you at 
all in what I am going to say about our arrangement 
to meet to night in the Sandsfoot ruin. But I have 
fancied that my seeing you a§ain and again lately is in- 
clining your father to insist, and you as his heir to feel, 
that we ought to carry out island custom in our court- 
ing — your people being such old inhabitants in an 
unbroken line. Truth to say, mother supposes that 
your father, for natural reasons, may have hinted to 
you that we ought. Now the thing is contrary to 
my feelings; it is nearly left off, and I do not think it 
good, even where there is property, as in your case, 
to justify it, in a measure. I would rather trust in 
Providence. 

" On the whole, therefore, it is best that I should 
not come — if only for appearances — and meet you at 
a time and place suggesting the custom, to others 
than ourselves, at least, if known. 

26 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

"I am sure that this decision will not disturb you 
much ; that you will understand my modern feelings, 
and think no worse of me for them. And, dear, if it 
were to be done, and we were unfortunate in it, we 
might both have enough old family feeling to think, 
like our forefathers, and possibly your father, that we 
could not marry honorably ; and hence we might be 
made unhappy. 

11 However, you will come again shortly, will you 

not, dear Jocelyn ? — and then the time will soon draw 

on when no more good-byes will be required. 

" Always and ever yours, 

" Avice." 

Jocelyn, having read the letter, was sur- 
prised at the naivete it showed, and at Avice 
and her mother's antiquated simplicity in sup- 
posing that to be still a grave and operating 
principle which was a bygone barbarism to 
himself and other absentees from the island. 
His father, as a money - maker, might have 
practical wishes on the matter of descendants 
which lent plausibility to the conjecture of 
Avice and her mother ; but to Jocelyn he 
had never expressed himself in favor of the 
ancient ways, old-fashioned as he was. 

Amused, therefore, at her regard of herself 
as modern, Jocelyn was disappointed and a 
little vexed that such an unforeseen reason 

27 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

should have deprived him of her company. 
How the old ideas survived under the new 
education ! 

The reader is asked to remember that the 
date, though recent in the history of the Isle 
of Slingers, was more than forty years ago. 

Finding that the evening seemed lowering, 
yet indisposed to go back and hire a vehicle, 
he went on quickly alone. In such an ex- 
posed spot the night wind was gusty, and the 
sea behind the pebble barrier kicked and 
flounced in complex rhythms, which could 
be translated equally well as shocks of battle 
or shouts of thanksgiving. 

Presently on the pale road before him he 
discerned a figure, the figure of a woman. 
He remembered that a woman passed him 
while he was reading Avice's letter by the 
last lamp, and now he was overtaking her. 

He did hope for a moment that it might be 
Avice, with a changed mind. But it was not 
she, nor anybody like her. It was a taller, 
squarer form than that of his betrothed, and 
although the season was only autumn she was 
wrapped in furs, or in thick and heavy cloth- 
ing of some kind. 

28 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

He soon advanced abreast of her, and could 
get glimpses of her profile against the road- 
stead lights. It was dignified, arresting — that 
of a very Juno. Nothing more classical had 
he ever seen. She walked at a swinging pace, 
yet with such ease and power that there was 
but little difference in their rate of speed for 
several minutes ; and during this time he re- 
garded and conjectured. However, he was 
about to pass her by when she suddenly 
turned and addressed him. 

''Mr. Pierston, I think, of East Quarriers?" 
He assented, and could just discern what a 
handsome, commanding, imperious face it was 
— quite of a piece with the proud tones of her 
voice. She was a new type altogether in his 
experience; and her accent was not so local as 
Avice's. 

" Can you tell me the time, please ?" 
He looked at his watch by the aid of a light, 
and in telling her that it was a quarter past 
seven observed, by the momentary gleam of his 
match, that her eyes looked a little red and 
chafed, as if with weeping. 

" Mr. Pierston, will you forgive what will ap- 
pear very strange to you, I dare say ? That is, 
may I ask you to lend me some money for a 

29 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

day or two ? I have been so foolish as to leave 
my purse on the dressing-table." 

It did appear strange ; and yet there were 
features in the young lady's personality which 
assured him in a moment that she was not an 
impostor. He yielded to her request, and put 
his hand in his pocket. Here it remained for 
a moment. How much did she mean by the 
words "some money?" The Junonian quality 
of her form and manner made him throw him- 
self by an impulse into harmony with her, and 
he responded regally. He scented a romance. 
He handed her five pounds. 

His munificence caused her no apparent sur- 
prise. " It is quite enough, thank you," she re- 
marked quietly, as he announced the sum, lest 
she should be unable to see it for herself. 

While overtaking and conversing with her 
he had not observed that the rising wind, which 
had proceeded from puffing to growling and 
from growling to screeching, with the accus- 
tomed suddenness of its changes here, had at 
length brought what it promised by these 
vagaries — rain. The drops, which had at first 
hit their left cheeks like the pellets of a pop- 
gun, soon assumed the character of a raking 
fusillade from the bank adjoining, one shot of 

30 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

which was sufficiently smart to go through 
Jocelyn's sleeve. The tall girl turned, and 
seemed to be somewhat concerned at an onset 
which she had plainly not foreseen before her 
starting. 

" We must take shelter," said Jocelyn. 

" But where?" said she. 

To windward was the long, monotonous 
bank, too obtusely piled to afford a screen, 
over which they could hear the canine crunch- 
ing of pebbles by the sea without ; on their 
right stretched the inner bay or roadstead, the 
distant riding-lights of the ships, now dim and 
glimmering; behind them a faint spark here 
and there in the lower sky showed where the 
island rose ; before there was nothing definite, 
and could be nothing, till they reached a pre- 
carious wood bridge, a mile farther on, Henry 
the Eighth's Castle being a little farther still. 

But just within the summit of the bank, 
whither it had apparently been hauled to be 
out of the way of the waves, was one of the 
local boats called lerrets, bottom upward. As 
soon as they saw it the pair ran up the pebbly 
slope towards it by a simultaneous impulse. 
They then perceived that it had lain there a 
long time, and were comforted to find it capa- 

31 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



ble of affording more protection than anybody 
would have expected from a distant view. It 
formed a shelter or store for the fishermen, the 
boom of the lerret being tarred as a roof. By 
creeping under the bows, which overhung the 
bank on props to leeward, they made their way 
within, where, upon some thwarts, oars, and 
other fragmentary woodwork, lay a mass of 
dry netting — a whole seine. Upon this they 
scrambled and sat down, through inability to 
stand upright. 



A CHARGE 

The rain fell upon the keel of the old lerret 
like corn thrown in handfuls by some colossal 
sower, and darkness set in to its full shade. 

They crouched so close to each other that 
he could feel her furs against him. Neither 
had spoken since they left the roadway till 
she said, with attempted unconcern : " This is 
unfortunate." 

He admitted that it was, and found, after a 
few further remarks had passed, that she cer- 
tainly had been weeping, there being a sup- 
pressed gasp of passionateness in her utterance 
now and then. 

" It is more unfortunate for you, perhaps, 
than for me," he said, " and I am very sorry 
that it should be so." 

She replied nothing to this, and he added 
that it was rather a desolate place for a woman, 
alone and afoot. He hoped nothing serious 
c 33 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

had happened to drag her out at such an un- 
toward time. 

At first she seemed not at all disposed to 
show any candor on her own affairs, and he 
was left to conjecture as to her history and 
name, and how she could possibly have known 
him. But, as the rain gave not the least sign 
of cessation, he observed : " I think we shall 
have to go back." 

" Never !" said she, and the firmness with 
which she closed her lips was audible in the 
word. 

"Why not?" he inquired. 

" There are good reasons." 

" I cannot understand how you should know 
me, while I have no knowledge of you." 

" Oh, but you know me — about me, at least." 

" Indeed I don't. How should I ? You are 
a kimberlin." 

" I am not. I am a real islander — or was, 
rather. . . . Haven't you heard of the Best- 
Bed Stone Company?" 

" I should think so ! They tried to ruin my 
father by getting away his trade — or, at least, 
the founder of the company did — old Ben- 
comb. 5 ' 

" He's my father !" 

34 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

11 Indeed ! I am sorry I should have spoken 
so disrespectfully of him, for I never knew him 
personally. After making over his large busi- 
ness to the company, he retired, I believe, to 
London?" 

" Yes. Our house, or rather his, not mine, 
is at South Kensington. We have lived there 
for years. But we have been tenants of Syl- 
vania Castle, on the island here, this season. 
We took it for a month or two of the owner, 
who is away." 

" Then I have been staying quite near you, 
Miss Bencomb. My father's is a compara- 
tively humble residence hard by." 

" But he could afford a much bigger one if 
he chose." 

" You have heard so ? I don't know. He 
doesn't tell me much of his affairs." 

" My father," she burst out, suddenly, " is 
always scolding me for my extravagance ! 
And he has been doing it to-day more than 
ever. He said I go shopping in town to 
simply a diabolical extent, and exceed my 
allowance !" 

" Was that this evening?" 

11 Yes. And then it reached such a storm 
of passion between us that I pretended to re- 

35 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



tire to my room for the rest of the evening, 
but I slipped out, and I am never going back 
home again." 

"What will you do?" 

" I shall go first to my aunt in London, and 
if she won't have me, I'll work for a living. I 
have left my father forever ! What I should 
have done if I had not met you I cannot tell — 
I must have walked all the way to London, I 
suppose. Now I shall take the train as soon 
as I reach the mainland." 

" If you ever do in this hurricane." 

" I must sit here till it stops." 

And there on the nets they sat. Pierston 
knew of old Bencomb as his father's bitterest 
enemy, who had made a great fortune by swal- 
lowing up the small stone-merchants, but had 
found Jocelyn's sire a trifle too big to digest — 
the latter being, in fact, the chief rival of the 
Best -Bed Company to that day. Jocelyn 
thought it strange that he should be thrown 
by fate into a position to play the son of the 
Montagues to this daughter of the Capulets. 

As they talked there was a mutual instinct 
to drop their voices, and on this account the 
roar of the storm necessitated their drawing 
quite close together. Something tender came 

36 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

into their tones as quarter-hour after quarter- 
hour went on, and they forgot the lapse of 
time. It was quite late when she started up, 
alarmed at her position. 

" Rain or no rain, I can stay no longer," she 
said. 

" Do come back," said he, taking her hand. 
" I'll return with you. My train has gone." 

u No ; I shall go on, and get a lodging in 
Budmouth town, if ever I reach it." 

" It is so late that there will be no house 
open, except a little place near the station, 
where you won't care to stay. However, if 
you are determined, I will show you the way. 
I cannot leave you. It would be too awkward 
for you to go there alone." 

She persisted, and they started through the 
twanging and spinning storm. The sea rolled 
and rose so high on their left, and was so near 
them on their right, that it seemed as if they 
were traversing its bottom, like the Children 
of Israel. Nothing but the frail bank of peb- 
bles divided them from the raging gulf with- 
out, and at every bang of the tide against it 
the ground shook, the shingle clashed, the 
spray rose vertically and was blown over 
their heads. Quantities of sea-water trickled 

37 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

through the pebble wall, and ran In rivulets 
across their path to join the sea within. The 
" island " was an island still. 

They had not realized the force of the ele- 
ments till now. Pedestrians had often been 
blown into the sea hereabout and drowned, 
owing to a sudden breach in the bank ; which, 
however, had something of a supernatural 
power in being able to close up and join 
itself together again after such disruption, 
like Satan's form when, cut in two by the 
sword of Michael, 

" The ethereal substance closed, 
Not long divisible." 

Her clothing offered more resistance to the 
wind than his, and she was consequently in 
the greater danger. It was impossible to re- 
fuse his proffered aid. First he gave his arm, 
but the wind tore them apart as easily as 
coupled cherries. He steadied her bodily by 
encircling her waist with his arm ; and she 
made no objection. 

Somewhere about this time — it might have 
been sooner, it might have been later — he be- 
came conscious of a sensation which, in its in- 

38 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

cipient and unrecognized form, had lurked 
within him from some unnoticed moment 
when he was sitting close to his new friend 
under the lerret. Though a young man, he 
was too old a hand not to know what this 
was, and felt alarmed — even dismayed. It 
meant a possible migration of the Well-Be- 
loved. The thing had not, however, taken 
place ; and he went on thinking how soft and 
warm the lady was in her fur covering, as he 
held her so tightly ; the only dry spots in the 
clothing of either being her left side and his 
right, where they excluded the rain by their 
¥ mutual pressure. 

As soon as they had crossed the ferry 
bridge there was a little more shelter, but he 
did- not relinquish his hold till she requested 
him. They passed the ruined castle, and, 
having left the island far behind them, trod 
mile after mile till they drew near to the out- 
skirts of the neighboring watering-place. Into 
it they plodded without pause, crossing the 
harbor bridge about midnight, wet to the skin. 

He pitied her, and, while he wondered at it, 
admired her determination. The houses fac- 
ing the bay now sheltered them completely, 
and they reached the vicinity of the new rail- 

39 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

way terminus (which the station was at this 
date) without difficulty. As he had said, 
there was only one house open hereabout, a 
little temperance inn, where the people stayed 
up for the arrival of the morning mail and 
passengers from the Channel boats. Their 
application for admission led to the with- 
drawal of a bolt, and they stood within the 
gaslight of the passage. 

He could see now that though she was such 
a fine figure, quite as tall as himself, she 
was but in the bloom of young womanhood 
in years. Her face was certainly striking, 
though rather by its imperiousness than its 
beauty ; and the beating of the wind and 
rain and spray had inflamed her cheeks to 
peony hues. 

She persisted in the determination to go on 
to London by an early morning train, and 
he therefore offered advice on lesser matters 
only. " In that case," he said, "you must go 
up to your room and send down your things, 
that they may be dried by the fire immediate- 
ly, or they will not be ready. I will tell the 
servant to do this, and send you up something 
to eat." 

She assented to his proposal, without, how- 

40 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

ever, showing any marks of gratitude ; and 
when she had gone Pierston despatched her 
the light supper promised by the sleepy girl 
who was " night porter " at this establishment. 
He felt ravenously hungry himself, and set 
about drying his clothes as well as he could 
and eating at the same time. 

At first he was in doubt what to do, but 
soon decided to stay where he was till the 
morrow. By the aid of some temporary 
wraps, and some slippers from the cupboard, 
he was contriving to make himself comfortable 
when the maid-servant came downstairs with 
a damp armful of woman's raiment. 

Pierston withdrew from the fire. The maid- 
servant knelt down before the blaze and held 
up with extended arms one of the habiliments 
of the Juno upstairs, from which a cloud of 
steam began to rise. As she knelt, the girl 
nodded forward, recovered herself, and nod- 
ded again. 

" You are sleepy, my girl," said Pierston. 

" Yes, sir ; I have been up a long time. 
When nobody comes I lie down on the couch 
in the other room." 

** Then I'll relieve you of that ; go and lie 
down in the other room, just as if we were not 

41 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

here. I'll dry the clothing and put the articles 
here in a heap, which you can take up to the 
young lady in the morning." 

The " night porter " thanked him and left 
the room, and he soon heard her snoring from 
the adjoining apartment. Then Jocelyn open- 
ed proceedings, overhauling the robes and ex- 
tending them one by one. As the steam 
went up he fell into a reverie. He again be- 
came conscious of the change which had been 
initiated during the walk. The Well-Beloved 
was moving house — had gone over to the 
wearer of this attire. 

In the course of ten minutes he adored 
her. 

And how about little Avice Caro? He did 
not think of her as before. 

He was not sure that he had ever seen the 
real Beloved lit that friend of his youth, so- 
licitous as he was for her welfare. But, lov- 
ing her or not, he perceived that the spirit, 
emanation, idealism, which called itself his 
Love was flitting stealthily from some re- 
moter figure to the near one in the chamber 
overhead. 

Avice had not kept her engagement to meet 
him in the lonely ruin, fearing her own im- 

42 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

aginings. But he, in fact, more than she, had 
been educated out of the island innocence 
that had upheld old manners ; and this was 
the strange consequence of Avice's misappre- 
hension. 



VI 

ON THE BRINK 

Miss Bencomb was leaving the hotel for 
the railway, which was quite near at hand, 
and had only recently been opened, as if on 
purpose for this event. At Jocelyn's sugges- 
tion she wrote a message to inform her father 
that she had gone to her aunt's, with a view to 
allaying anxiety and deterring pursuit. They 
walked together to the platform and bade 
each other good-bye ; each obtained a ticket 
independently, and Jocelyn got his luggage 
from the cloak-room. 

On the platform they encountered each 
other again, and there was a light in their 
glances at each other which said, as by a 
flash-telegraph, " We are bound for the same 
town, why not enter the same compartment?" 

They did. 

She took a corner seat, with her back to the 
engine ; he sat opposite. The guard looked 

44 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

in, thought they were lovers, and did not show 
other travellers into that compartment. They 
talked on strictly ordinary matters — what she 
thought he did not know— but at every stop- 
ping station he dreaded intrusion. Before 
they were half way to London the event he 
had just begun to realize was a patent fact. 
The Beloved was again embodied ; she filled 
every fibre and curve of this woman's form. 

Drawing near the great London station was 
like drawing near doomsday. How should he 
leave her in the turmoil of a crowded city 
street ? She seemed quite unprepared for the 
rattle of the scene. He asked her where her 
aunt lived. 

" Bayswater," said Miss Bencomb. 

He called a cab and proposed that she 
should share it till they arrived at her aunt's, 
whose residence lay not much out of the way 
to his own. Try as he would, he could not 
ascertain if she understood his feelings, but 
she assented to his offer and entered the ve- 
hicle. 

" We are old friends," he said, as they drove 
onward. 

" Indeed we are," she answered, without 
smiling. 

45 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"But hereditarily we are mortal enemies, 
dear Juliet." 

" Yes — What did you say ?" 

" I said Juliet." 

She laughed in a half-proud way, and mur- 
mured : " Your father is my father's ene- 
my, and my father is mine. Yes, it is so." 
And then their eyes caught each other's 
glance. 

" My queenly darling !" he burst out ; " in- 
stead of going to your aunt's, will you come 
and marry me?" 

A flush covered her over, which seemed akin 
to a flush of rage. It was not exactly that, 
but she was excited. She did not answer, and 
he feared he had mortally offended her dig- 
nity. Perhaps she had only made use of him 
as a convenient aid to her intentions. How- 
ever, he went on : 

" Your father would not be able to reclaim 
you then ! After all, this is not so precipitate 
as it seems. You know all about me, my his- 
tory, my prospects. I know all about you. 
Our families have been neighbors on that isle 
for hundreds of years, though you are now 
such a London product." 

" Will you ever be a Royal Academician ?" 

46 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

she asked, musingly, her excitement having 
calmed down. 

" I hope to be — I will be, if you will be my 
wife." 

His companion looked at him long. 

" Think what a short way out of your dif- 
ficulty this would be," he continued. " No 
bother about aunts, no fetching home by an 
angry father." 

It seemed to decide her. She yielded to his 
embrace. 

"How long will it take to marry?" Miss 
Bencomb asked, by-and-by, with obvious self- 
repression. 

" We could do it to-morrow. I could get to 
Doctors' Commons by noon to-day, and the li- 
cense would be ready by to-morrow morning." 

" I won't go to my aunt's, I will be an in- 
dependent woman ! I have been reprimanded 
as if I were a child of six. I'll be your wife 
if it is as easy as you say." 

They stopped the cab while they held a 
consultation. Pierston had rooms and a studio 
in the neighborhood of Campden Hill; but it 
would be hardly desirable to take her thither 
till they were married. They decided to go 
to a hotel. 

47 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Changing their direction, therefore, they 
went back to the Strand, and soon ensconced 
themselves in one of the venerable old taverns 
of Covent Garden, a precinct which in those 
days was frequented by West-country people. 
Jocelyn then left her and proceeded on his 
errand eastward. 

It was about three o'clock when, having ar- 
ranged all preliminaries necessitated by this 
sudden change of front, he began strolling 
slowly back; he felt bewildered, and to walk 
was a relief. Gazing occasionally into this 
shop window and that, he called a hansom as 
by an inspiration, and directed the driver to 
" Mellstock Gardens." Arrived here, he rang 
the bell of a studio, and in a minute or two it 
was answered by a young man in shirt-sleeves, 
about his own age, with a great smeared pal- 
ette on his left thumb. 

" Oh, you, Pierston ! I thought you were in 
the country. Come in. I'm awfully glad of this. 
I am here in town finishing off a painting for an 
American, who wants to take it back with him." 

Pierston followed his friend into the paint- 
ing-room, where a pretty young woman was 
sitting sewing. At a signal from the painter 

she disappeared without speaking. 

4 8 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

" I can see from your face you have some- 
thing to say ; so we'll have it all to ourselves. 
You are in some trouble? What '11 you drink?" 

" Oh ! it doesn't matter what, so that it is 
alcohol in some shape or form. . . . Now, 
Somers, you must just listen to me, for I have 
something to tell." 

Pierston had sat down in an arm-chair, and 
Somers had resumed his painting. When a 
servant had brought in brandy to soothe Pier- 
ston's nerves, and soda to take off the injurious 
effects of the brandy, and milk to take off the 
depleting effects of the soda, Jocelyn began 
his narrative, addressing it rather to Somers's 
Gothic chimneypiece, and Somers's Gothic 
clock, and Somers's Gothic rugs, than to 
Somers himself, who stood at his picture a 
little behind his friend. 

" Before I tell you what has happened to 
mc," Pierston said, " I want to let you know 
the manner of man I am." 

" Lord — I know already !" 

" Xo, you don't. It is a sort of thing one 
doesn't like to talk of. I lie awake at night 
thinking about it." 

l, Xo!" said Somers, with more sympathy, 
seeing that his friend was really troubled. 

D 4Q 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" I am under a curious curse or influence. I 
am posed, puzzled, and perplexed by the leger- 
demain of a creature — a deity rather; by Aph- 
rodite, as a poet would put it, as I should put 
it myself in marble. . . . But I forget — this is 
not to be a deprecatory wail, but a defence 
— a sort of Apologia pro vita med" 

" That's better. Fire away!" 



VII 

HER EARLIER INCARNATIONS 

" You, Somers, are not, I know, one of those 
who continue to indulge in the world-wide, 
fond superstition that the Beloved One of any 
man always, or even usually, cares to remain 
in one corporeal nook or shell for any great 
length of time, however much he may wish her 
to do so. If I am wrong, and you do still hold 
to that ancient error — well, my story will seem 
rather queer." 

" Suppose you say some men, not any man." 
" L A11 right — I'll say one man, this man only, 
if you are so particular. We are a strange, 
visionary race down where I come from, and 
perhaps that accounts for it. The Beloved of 
this one man, then, has had many incarnations 
— too many to describe in detail. Each shape, 
or embodiment, has been a temporary resi- 
dence only, which she has entered, lived in a 
while, and made her exit from, leaving the 

51 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

substance, so far as I have been concerned, a 
corpse, worse luck ! Now, there is no spirit- 
ualistic nonsense in this — it is simple fact, put 
in the plain form that the conventional public 
are afraid of. So much for the principle." 

" Good. Go on." 

" Well ; the first embodiment of her occurred, 
so nearly as I can recollect, when I was about 
the age of nine. Her vehicle was a little blue- 
eyed girl of eight or so, one of a family of 
eleven, with flaxen hair about her shoulders, 
which attempted to curl, but ignominiously 
failed, hanging like chimney-crooks only. This 
defect used rather to trouble me ; and was, I 
believe, one of the main reasons of my Be- 
loved's departure from that tenement. I can- 
not remember with any exactness when the de- 
parture occurred. I know it was after I had 
kissed my little friend in a garden-seat on a 
hot noontide, under a blue gingham umbrella, 
which we had opened over us as we sat, that 
passers through East Quarriers might not ob- 
serve our marks of affection, forgetting that 
our screen must attract more attention than 
our persons. 

" When the whole dream came to an end 
through her father leaving the island, I thought 

52 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

my Well-Beloved had gone forever (being then 
in the unpractised condition of Adam at sight 
of the first sunset). But she had not. Laura 
had gone forever, but not my Beloved. 

" For some months after I had done crying 
for the flaxen-haired edition of her, my Love 
did not reappear. Then she came suddenly, 
unexpectedly, in a situation I should never 
have predicted. I was standing on the curb- 
stone of the pavement in Budmouth-Regis, 
outside the Preparatory School, looking across 
towards the sea, when a middle-aged gentle- 
man on horseback, and beside him a young 
lady, also mounted, passed down the street. 
The girl turned her head, and — possibly be- 
cause I was gaping at her in awkward admira- 
tion, or smiling myself— smiled at me. Hav- 
ing ridden a few paces, she looked round again 
and smiled. 

" It was enough, more than enough, to set 
me on fire. I understood in a moment the in- 
formation conveyed to me by my emotion — 
the Well-Beloved had reappeared. This sec- 
ond form in which it had pleased her to take 
up her abode was quite a grown young wom- 
an's, darker in complexion than the first. 
Her hair, also worn in a knot, was of an or- 

53 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

dinary brown, and so, I think, were her eyes, 
but the niceties of her features were not to be 
gathered so cursorily. However, there sat my 
coveted one, re-embodied ; and, bidding my 
schoolmates a hasty farewell as soon as I could 
do so without suspicion, I hurried along the 
Esplanade in the direction she and her father 
had ridden. But they had put their horses to 
a canter, and I could not see which way they 
had gone. In the greatest misery I turned 
down a side street, but was soon elevated to a 
state of excitement by seeing the same pair 
galloping towards me. Flushing up to my hair, 
I stopped and heroically faced her as she 
passed. She smiled again, but, alas! upon my 
Love's cheek there was no blush of passion 
for me." 

Pierston paused and drank from his glass 
as he lived for a brief moment in the scene he 
had conjured up. Somers reserved his com- 
ments, and Jocelyn continued: 

" That afternoon I idled about the streets, 
looking for her in vain. When I next saw 
one of the boys who had been with me at 
her first passing I stealthily reminded him 
of the incident, and asked if he knew the 
riders. 

54 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

" ' Oh yes,' he said. ' That was Colonel 
Targe and his daughter Elsie.' 

" i How old do you think she is?' said I, a 
sense of disparity in our ages disturbing my 
mind. 

" ' Oh — nineteen, I think they say. She's 
going to be married the day after to-morrow 
to Captain Popp, of the 501st, and they are 
ordered off to India at once.' 

" The grief which I experienced at this in- 
telligence was such that at dusk I went away 
to the edge of the harbor, intending to put 
an end to myself there and then. But I had 
been told that crabs had been found clinging 
to the dead faces of persons who had fallen in 
thereabout, leisurely eating them, and the idea 
of such an unpleasant contingency deterred 
me. I should state that the marriage of my 
Beloved concerned me little ; it was her de- 
parture that broke my heart. I never saw 
her again. 

" Though I had already learned that the 
absence of the corporeal matter did not in- 
volve the absence of the informing spirit, I 
could scarce bring myself to believe that in 
this case it was possible for her to return to my 
view without the form she had last inhabited. 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" But she did. 

" It was not, however, till after a good space 
of time, during which I passed through that 
bearish age in boys, their early teens, when 
girls are their especial contempt. I was about 
seventeen, and was sitting one evening over a 
cup of tea in a confectioner's at the very same 
watering-place, when opposite me a lady took 
her seat with a little girl. We looked at each 
other a while, the child made advances, till I 
said, ' She's a good little thing.' 

" The lady assented, and made a further re- 
mark. 

" ' She has the soft fine eyes of her mother,' 
said I. 

" ' Do you think her eyes are good ?' asks 
the lady, as if she had not heard what she 
had heard most — the last three words of my 
opinion. 

"' Yes — for copies,' said I, regarding her. 

" After this we got on very well. She in- 
formed me that her husband had gone out in 
a yacht, and I said it was a pity he didn't take 
her with him for the airing. She gradually 
disclosed herself in the character of a deserted 
young wife, and later on I met her in the 
street without the child. She was going to 

56 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

the landing-stage to meet her husband, so she 
told me ; but she did not know the way. 

" I offered to show her, and did so. I will 
not go into particulars, but I afterwards saw 
her several times, and soon discovered that 
the Beloved (as to whose whereabouts I had 
been at fault so long) lurked here. Though 
why she had chosen this tantalizing situation 
of an inaccessible matron's form, when so 
many others offered, it was beyond me to 
discover. The whole affair ended innocently 
enough, when the lady left the town with her 
husband and child ; she seemed to regard our 
acquaintance as a flirtation ; yet it was any- 
thing but a flirtation for me ! 

" Why should I tell the rest of the tantaliz- 
ing tale! After this the Well-Beloved put 
herself in evidence with greater and greater 
frequency, and it would be impossible for me 
to give you details of her various incarnations. 
She came nine times in the course of the two 
or three ensuing years. Four times she mas- 
queraded as a brunette, twice as a pale-haired 
creature, and two or three times under a com- 
plexion neither light nor dark. Sometimes 
she was a tall, fine girl, but more often, I 

57 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

think, she preferred to slip into the skin of a 
lithe, airy being, of no great stature. I grew 
so accustomed to these exits and entrances 
that I resigned myself to them quite passive- 
ly, talked to her, kissed her, corresponded 
with her, ached for her, in each of her several 
guises. So it went on until a month ago. 
And then for the first time I was puzzled. 
She either had, or she had not, entered the 
person of Avice Caro, a young girl I had 
known from infancy. Upon the whole, I have 
decided that, after all, she did not enter the 
form of Avice Caro, because I retain so great 
a respect for her still." 

Pierston here gave in brief the history of 
his revived comradeship with Avice, the verge 
of the engagement to which they had reached, 
and its unexpected rupture by him merely 
through his meeting with a woman into whom 
the Well-Beloved unmistakably moved under 
his very eyes — by name Miss Marcia Ben- 
comb. He described their spontaneous de- 
cision to marry offhand ; and then he put it 
to Somers whether he ought to marry or 
not — her or anybody else — in such circum- 
stances. 

" Certainly not," said Somers. " Though, if 

58 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

anybody, little Avice. But not even her. 
You are like other men, only rather worse. 
Essentially all men are fickle like you, but 
not with such perceptiveness." 

" Surely fickle is not the word ? Fickle- 
ness means getting weary of a thing while the 
thing remains the same. But I have always 
been faithful to the elusive creature whom I 
have never been able to get a firm hold of, 
unless I have done so now. And let me tell 
you that her flitting from each to each in- 
dividual has been anything but a pleasure for 
me — certainly not a wanton game of my in- 
stigation. To see the creature who has hith- 
erto been perfect, divine, lose under your very 
gaze the divinity which has informed her, 
grow commonplace, turn from flame to ashes, 
from a radiant vitality to a corpse, is anything 
but a pleasure for any man, and has been 
nothing less than a racking spectacle to my 
sight. Each mournful emptied shape stands 
ever after like the nest of some beautiful bird 
from which the inhabitant has departed and 
left it to fill with snow. I have been abso- 
lutely miserable when I have looked in a face 
for her I used to see there, and could see her 
there no more." 

59 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"You ought not to marry," repeated Som- 
ers. 

" Perhaps I oughtn't to ! Though poor Mar- 
da will be compromised, I'm afraid, if I don't. 
. . . Was I not right in saying I am accursed 
in this thing? Fortunately nobody but my- 
self has suffered on account of it till now. 
Knowing what to expect, I have seldom 
ventured on a close acquaintance with any 
woman, in fear of prematurely driving away 
the dear one in her ; who, however, has in 
time gone off just the same." 

Pierston soon after took his leave. A 
friend's advice on such a subject weighs lit- 
tle. He quickly returned to Miss Bencomb. 

She was different now. Anxiety had visi- 
bly brought her down a notch or two, undone 
a few degrees of that haughty curl which her 
lip could occasionally assume. " How long 
you have been away !" she said, with a show 
of impatience. 

" Never mind, darling. It is all arranged," 
said he. " We shall be able to marry in a few 
days." 

" Not to-morrow ?" 

" We can't to-morrow. We have not been 
here quite long enough." 

60 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

" But how did the people at Doctors' Com- 
mons know that ?" 

" Well — I forgot that residence, real or as- 
sumed, was necessary, and unfortunately ad- 
mitted that we had only just arrived." 

" Oh, how stupid ! But it can't be helped 
now. I think, dear, I should have known 
better, however." 



VIII 
TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING • 

They lived on at the hotel some days long- 
er, eyed curiously by the chambermaids, and 
burst in upon every now and then by the 
waiters as if accidentally. When they were 
walking together, mostly in back streets for 
fear of being recognized, Marcia was often 
silent, and her imperious face looked gloomy. 

" Dummy !" he said, playfully, on one of 
these occasions. 

" I am vexed that by your admissions at 
Doctors' Commons you prevented them giv- 
ing you the license at once ! It is not nice, 
my living on like this !" 

" But we are going to marry, dear !" 

" Yes," she murmured, and fell into reverie 
again. " What a sudden resolve it was of 
ours !" she continued. " I wish I could get 
my father and mother's consent to our mar- 
riage. . . . As we can't complete it for another 

62 



I 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

day or two, a letter might be sent to them 
and their answer received. I have a mind to 
write." 

Pierston expressed his doubts of the wis- 
dom of this course, which seemed to make 
her desire it the more, and the result was a 
tiff between them. " Since we are obliged to 
delay it, I won't marry without their consent !" 
she cried at last, passionately. 

" Very well then, dear. Write," he said. 

When they were again indoors she sat down 
to a note, but after a while threw aside her 
pen despairingly. " No ; I cannot do it !" 
she said. " I can't bend my pride to such a 
job. Will you write for me, Jocelyn?" 

" I ? I don't see why I should be the one, 
particularly as I think it premature." 

" But you have not quarrelled with my 
father as I have done." 

"Well, no. But there is a long-standing 
antagonism, which would make it odd in me 
to write. Wait till we are married, and then 
I will write. Not till then." 

" Then I suppose I must. You don't know 
my father. He might forgive me marrying 
into any other family without his knowledge, 
but he thinks so meanly of yours on account 

63 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



of the trade rivalry that he would never par- 
don till the day of his death my becoming a 
Pierston secretly. I didn't see it at first." 

This remark caused an unpleasant jar on 
the mind of Pierston. Despite his indepen- 
dent artistic position in London, he was 
stanch to the simple old parent who had 
stubbornly held out for so many years against 
Bencomb's encroaching trade, and whose 
money had educated and maintained Jocelyn 
as an art-student in the best schools. So he 
begged her to say no more about his family, 
and she silently resumed her letter, giving 
an address at a post-office, that their quar- 
ters might not be discovered, at least just 
yet. 

No reply came by return of post ; but, rath- 
er ominously, some letters for Marcia that had 
arrived at her father's since her departure were 
sent on in silence to the address given. She 
opened them one by one, till, on reaaing the 
last, she exclaimed, " Good gracious !" and 
burst into laughter. 

" What is it ?" asked Pierston. 

Marcia began to read the letter aloud. It 
came from a faithful lover of hers, a youthful 
Jersey gentleman, who stated that he was soon 

64 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

going to start for England to claim his dar- 
ling, according to her plighted word. 

She was half risible, half concerned. " What 
shall I do ?" she said. 

" Do ? My dear girl, it seems to me that 
there is only one thing to do, and that a very 
obvious thing. Tell him as soon as possible 
that you are just on the point of marriage." 

Marcia thereupon wrote out a reply to that 
effect, Jocelyn helping her to shape the phrases 
as gently as possible. 

"I repeat" (her letter concluded) "that I 
had quite forgotten ! I am deeply sorry ; but 
that is the truth. I have told my intended 
husband everything, and he is looking over 
my shoulder as I write." 

Said Jocelyn when he saw this set down : 
" You might leave out the last few words. 
They are rather an extra stab for the poor 
boy." 

"Stab? It is not that, dear. Why does he 
want to come bothering me? Jocelyn, you 
ought to be very proud that I have put you 
in my letter at all. You said yesterday that 
I was conceited in declaring I might have 
married that science-man I told you of. But 
now you see there was yet another available." 
e 65 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

He, gloomily : " Well, I don't care to hear 
about that. To my mind this sort of thing is 
decidedly unpleasant, though you treat it so 
lightly." 

"Well," she pouted, "I have only done half 
what you ha ye done !" 

" What's that ?" 

" I have only proved false through forgetful- 
ness, but you have while remembering!" 

" Oh yes ; of course you can use Avice Caro 
as a retort. But don't vex me about her, and 
make me do such an unexpected thing as re- 
gret the falseness." 

She shut her mouth tight, and her face 
flushed. 

The next morning there did come an answer 
to the letter asking her parents' consent to her 
union with him; but, to Marcia's amazement, 
her father took a line quite other than the one 
she had expected him to take. Whether she 
had compromised herself or whether she had 
not seemed a question for the future rather 
than the present with him, a native islander, 
born when old island marriage views prevailed 
in families ; he was fixed in his disapproval of 
her marriage with a hated Pierston. He did 
not consent ; he would not say more till he 

66 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

could see her ; if she had any sense at all she 
would, if still unmarried, return to the home 
from which she had evidently been enticed. 
He would then see what he could do for 
her in the desperate circumstances she had 
made for herself ; otherwise he would do 
nothing. 

Pierston could not help being sarcastic at 
her father's evidently low estimate of him and 
his belongings ; and Marcia took umbrage at 
his sarcasms. 

" I am the one deserving of satire if any- 
body," she said. " I begin to feel I was a fool- 
ish girl to run away from a father for such a 
trumpery reason as a little scolding because I 
had exceeded my allowance." 

" I advised you to go back, Marcia." 

" In a sort of way; not in the right tone. 
You spoke most contemptuously of my father 
as a merchant." 

" I couldn't speak otherwise of him than I 
did, I'm afraid, knowing what — " 

" What have you to say against him ?" 

" Nothing — to you, Marcia, beyond what is 
matter of common notoriety. Everybody 
knows that at one time he made it the busi- 
ness of his life to ruin my father; and the way 

67 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

he alludes to me in that letter shows that his 
enmity still continues." 

" That miser ruined by an open-handed man 
like my father !" said she. " It is like your 
people's misrepresentations to say that." 

Marcia's eyes flashed and her face burned 
with an angry heat, the enhanced beauty which 
this warmth might have brought being killed 
by the rectilinear sternness of countenance 
that came therewith. 

" Marcia, this temper is too exasperating ! 
I could give you every step of the proceeding 
in detail — anybody could — the getting the 
quarries one by one, and everything, my father 
only holding his own by the most desperate 
courage. There is no blinking facts. Our 
parents' relations are an ugly fact in the cir- 
cumstances of us two people who want to mar- 
ry, and we are just beginning to perceive it ; 
and how we are going to get over it I cannot 
tell." 

She said, steadily, " I don't think we shall 
get over it at all !" 

"We may not — we may not — altogether," 
Pierston murmured, as he gazed at the fine 
picture of scorn presented by his Juno's classi- 
cal face and dark eyes. 

6§ 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

" Unless you beg my pardon for having be- 
haved so !" 

Pierston could not quite bring himself to see 
that he had behaved badly to his too imperi- 
ous lady, and declined to ask forgiveness for 
what he had not done. 

She thereupon left the room. Later in the 
day she re-entered and broke a silence by say- 
ing, bitterly : " I showed temper just now, as 
you told me. But things have causes, and it 
is perhaps a mistake that you should have de- 
serted Avice for me. Instead of wedding 
Rosaline, Romeo must needs go eloping with 
Juliet. It was a fortunate thing for the affec- 
tions of those two Veronese lovers that they 
died when they did. In a short time the en- 
mity of their families would have proved a 
fruitful source of dissension ; Juliet would have 
gone back to her people, he to his ; the sub- 
ject would have split them as much as it splits 
us. 

Pierston laughed a little. But Marcia was 
painfully serious, as he found at tea-time, when 
she said that since his refusal to beg her par- 
don she had been thinking over the matter 
and had resolved to go to her aunt's, after all — 
at any rate till her father could be induced to 

69 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

agree to their union. Pierston was as chilled 
by this resolve of hers as he was surprised 
at her independence in circumstances which 
usually make women the reverse. But he put 
no obstacles in her way, and, with a kiss 
strangely cold after their recent ardor, the 
Romeo of the freestone Montagues went out 
of the hotel, to avoid even the appearance of 
coercing his Juliet of the rival house. When 
he returned she was gone. 

A correspondence began between these too 
hastily pledged ones, and it was carried on in 
terms of serious reasoning upon their awkward 
situation on account of the family feud. They 
saw their recent love as what it was : 

"Too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; 
Too like the lightning" . . . 

They saw it with an eye whose calmness, cold- 
ness, and, it must be added, wisdom, did not 
promise well for their reunion. 

Their debates were clinched by a final letter 
from Marcia, sent from no other place than 
her recently left home in the isle. She in- 
formed him that her father had appeared sud- 
denly at her aunt's, and had induced her to 

70 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

go home with him. She had told her father 
all the circumstances of their elopement, and 
what mere accidents had caused it ; he had 
persuaded her on what she had almost been 
convinced of by their disagreement, that all 
thought of their marriage should be at least 
postponed for the present; any awkwardness, 
and even scandal, being better than that they 
should immediately unite themselves for life 
on the strength of a two or three days' pas- 
sion, and be the wretched victims of a situa- 
tion they could never change. 

Pierston saw plainly enough that he owed it 
to her father being a born islander, with all 
the ancient island notions of the sexes lying 
underneath his acquired conventions, that the 
stone-merchant did not immediately insist upon 
the usual remedy for a daughter's precipitancy 
of action, but preferred to await issues. 

But the young man still thought that Marcia 
herself, when her temper had quite cooled 
and she was more conscious of her real posi- 
tion, would return to him in spite of the family 
hostility. There was no social reason against 
such a step. In birth the pair were about on 
one plane ; and though Marcia's family had 
gained a start in the accumulation of wealth 

7. 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

and in the beginnings of social distinction, 
which lent color to the feeling that the advan- 
tages of the match would be mainly on one 
side, Pierston was a sculptor who might rise to 
fame; so that potentially their marriage could 
not be considered inauspicious for a woman 
who, beyond being the probable heiress to a 
considerable fortune, had no exceptional op- 
portunities. 

Thus, though disillusioned, he felt bound in 
honor to remain on call at his London address 
as long as there was the slightest chance of 
Marcia's reappearance, or of the arrival of 
some message requesting him to join her, that 
they might, after all, go to the altar together. 
Yet in the night he seemed to hear sardonic 
voices and laughter in the wind at this devel- 
opment of his little romance, and during the 
slow and colorless days he had to sit and be- 
hold the mournful departure of his Well-Be- 
loved from the form he had lately cherished, 
till she had almost vanished away. The exact 
moment of her complete withdrawal Pierston 
knew not, but not many lines of her were 
longer discernible in Marcia's remembered 
contours, nor many sounds of her in Marcia's 

recalled accents. Their acquaintance, though 

72 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

so fervid, had been too brief for such lin- 
gering. 

There came a time when he learned, through 
a trustworthy channel, two pieces of news 
affecting himself. One was the marriage of 
Avice Caro with her cousin, the other that the 
Bencombs had started on a tour round the 
world, which was to include a visit to a rela- 
tion of Mr. Bencomb's who was a banker in 
San Francisco. Since retiring from his former 
large business the stone- merchant had not 
known what to do with his leisure, and finding 
that travel benefited his health he had decided 
to indulge himself thus. Although he was not 
so informed, Pierston concluded that Marcia 
had accompanied her parents, and he was more 
than ever struck with what this signified — her 
father's obstinate antagonism to her union 
with one of his blood and name. 



IX 

FAMILIAR PHENOMENA IN THE DISTANCE 

By degrees Pierston began to trace again 
the customary lines of his existence ; and his 
profession occupied him much as of old. The 
next year or two only once brought him ti- 
dings, through some residents at his former 
home, of the movements of the Bencombs. 
The extended voyage of Marcia's parents had 
given them quite a zest for other scenes and 
countries ; and it was said that her father, a 
man still in vigorous health except at brief 
intervals, was utilizing the outlook which his 
cosmopolitanism afforded him by investing 
capital in foreign undertakings. What he had 
supposed turned out to be true ; Marcia was 
with them ; and thus the separation of himself 
and his nearly married wife by common con- 
sent was likely to be a permanent one. 

It seemed as if he would scarce ever again 
discover the carnate dwelling-place of the 

74 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

haunting minion of his imagination. Having 
gone so near to matrimony with Marcia as 
to apply for a license, he had felt for a long 
while morally bound to her by the incipient 
contract, and would not intentionally look 
about him in search of the vanished Ideality. 
Thus during the first year of Miss Bencomb's 
absence, when absolutely bound to keep faith 
with the elusive one's late incarnation if she 
should return to claim him, this man of the 
odd fancy would sometimes tremble at the 
thought of what would become of his solemn 
intention if the Phantom were suddenly to 
disclose herself in an unexpected quarter and 
seduce him before he was aware. Once or 
twice he imagined that he saw her in the dis- 
tance — at the end of a street, on the far sands 
of a shore, in a window, in a meadow, at the 
opposite side of a railway station ; but he de- 
terminedly turned on his heel and walked the 
other way. 

During the many uneventful seasons that 
followed Marcia's stroke of independence (for 
which he was not without a secret admiration 
at times), Jocelyn threw into plastic creations 
that ever-bubbling spring of emotion which, 
without some conduit into space, will surge 

75 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

upward and ruin all but the greatest men. It 
was probably owing to this, certainly not on 
account of any care or anxiety for such a re- 
sult, that he was successful in his art, success- 
ful by a seemingly sudden spurt, which carried 
him at one bound over the hinderances of 
years. 

He prospered without effort. He was 
A.R.A. 

But recognitions of this sort, social distinc- 
tions, which he had once coveted so keenly, 
seemed to have no utility for him now. By 
the accident of being a bachelor he was float- 
ing in society without any soul-anchorage or 
shrine that he could call his own ; and, for 
want of a domestic centre round which honors 
might crystallize, they dispersed impalpably, 
without accumulating and adding weight to 
his material well-being. 

He would have gone on working with his 
chisel with just as much zest if his creations 
had been doomed to meet no mortal eye but 
his own. This indifference to the popular re- 
ception of his dream-figures lent him a curious 
artistic aplomb that carried him through the 
gusts of opinion without suffering them to dis- 
turb his inherent bias. 

76 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

The study of beauty was his only joy for 
years onward. In the streets he would ob- 
serve a face, or a fraction of a face, which 
seemed to express to a hair's-breadth in mu- 
table flesh what he was at that moment wish- 
ing to express in durable shape. He would 
dodge and follow the owner like a detective; 
in omnibus, in cab, in steamboat, through 
crowds, into shops, churches, theatres, public- 
houses, and slums — mostly, when at close 
quarters, to be disappointed for his pains. 

In these professional beauty-chases he some- 
times cast his eye across the Thames to the 
wharves on the south side, and to that partic- 
ular one whereat his father's tons of freestone 
were daily landed from the ketches of the 
south coast. He could occasionally discern 
the white blocks lying there, vast cubes so 
persistently nibbled by his parent from his 
island rock in the English Channel that it 
seemed as if in time it would be nibbled all 
avvay. 

One thing it passed him to understand — on 
what field of observation the poets and philos- 
ophers based their assumption that the pas- 
sion of love was intensest in youth and burned 
lower as maturity advanced. It was possibly 

77 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

because of his utter domestic loneliness that, 
during the productive interval which followed 
the first years of Marcia's departure, when he 
was drifting along from five - and - twenty to 
eight-and-thirty, Pierston occasionally loved 
with an ardor — though, it is true, also with 
a self-control — unknown to him when he was 
green in judgment. 

His whimsical isle -bred fancy had grown 
to be such an emotion that the Well-Beloved 
— now again visible — was always existing 
somewhere near him. For months he would 
find her on the stage of a theatre ; then she 
would flit away, leaving the poor, empty car- 
cass that had lodged her to mumm on as best 
it could without her — a sorry lay figure to his 
eyes, heaped with imperfections and sullied 
with commonplace. She would reappear, it 
might be, in an at first unnoticed lady — met 
at some fashionable evening-party, exhibition, 
bazaar, or dinner — to flit from her, in turn, 
after a few months, and stand as a graceful 
shop-girl at some large drapery warehouse 
into which he had strayed on an unaccus- 
tomed errand. Then she would forsake this 
figure and redisclose herself in the guise of 

78 



A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY 

some popular authoress, piano-player, or fld- 
dleress, at whose shrine he would worship for 
perhaps a twelvemonth. Once she was a 
dancing-girl at the Royal Moorish Palace of 
Varieties, though during her whole continu- 
ance at that establishment he never once ex- 
changed a word with her, nor did she first or 
last ever dream of his existence. He knew 
that a ten minutes' conversation in the wings 
with the substance would send the elusive 
haunter scurrying fearfully away into some 
other even less accessible mask-figure. 

She was a blonde, a brunette, tall, petite, 
svelte, straight-featured, full, curvilinear. Only 
one quality remained unalterable — her insta- 
bility of tenure. In Borne's phrase, nothing 
was permanent in her but change. 

"It is odd," he said to himself, "that this 
experience of mine, or idiosyncrasy, or what- 
ever it is, which would be sheer waste of time 
for other men, creates sober business for me." 
For all these dreams he translated into plas- 
ter, and found that by them he was hitting a 
public taste he had never deliberately aimed 
at and mostly despised. He was, in short, in 
danger of drifting away from a solid artistic 
reputation to a popularity which mi^ht possi- 

79 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

bly be as brief as it would be brilliant and ex 
citing. 

"You will be caught some day, my friend,' 
Somers would occasionally observe to him. 
" I don't mean to say entangled in anything 
discreditable, for I admit that you are in prac- 
tice as ideal as in theory. I mean the process 
will be reversed. Some woman, whose Well- 
Beloved flits about as yours does now, will 
catch your eye, and you'll stick to her like a 
limpet, while she follows her Phantom and 
leaves you to ache as you will." 

" You may be right ; but I think you are 
wrong," said Pierston. " As flesh she dies 
daily, like the Apostle's corporeal self ; be- 
cause when I grapple with the reality she's no 
longer in it, so that I cannot stick to one in- 
carnation if I would." 

" Wait till you are older," said Somers. 



PART SECOND 
A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 



' ' Since Love will needs that I shall love, 
Of very force I must agree : 
And since no chance may it remove, 
In wealth and in adversity 
I shalt alway myself apply 
To serve and suffer patiently." 

—Sir T. Wyatt. 



THE OLD PHANTOM BECOMES DISTINCT 

In the course of these long years Pierston's 
artistic emotions were abruptly suspended by 
the news of his father's sudden death at Sand- 
bourne, whither the stone-merchant had gone 
for a change of air by the advice of his phy- 
sician. 

Mr. Pierston, senior, it must be admitted, 
had been something miserly in his home life, 
as Marcia had so rashly reminded his son. 
But he had never stinted Jocelyn. He had 
been rather a hard taskmaster, though as a 
paymaster trustworthy ; a ready-money man, 
just and ungenerous. To every one's sur- 
prise, the capital he had accumulated in the 
stone trade was of large amount for a busi- 
ness so unostentatiously carried on — much 
larger than Jocelyn had ever regarded as pos- 
sible. While the son had been modelling and 
chipping his ephemeral fancies into perennial 

83 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

shapes the father had been persistently chisel- 
ling for half a century at the crude original 
matter of those shapes, the stern, isolated rock 
in the Channel ; and by the aid of his cranes 
and pulleys, his trolleys and his boats, had 
sent off his spoil to all parts of Great Britain. 
When Jocelyn had wound up everything and 
disposed of the business, as recommended by 
his father's will, he found himself enabled to 
add about eighty thousand pounds to the 
twelve thousand which he already possessed 
from professional and other sources. 

After arranging for the sale of some free- 
hold properties in the island other than quar- 
ries — for he did not intend to reside there — 
he returned to town. He often wondered 
what had become of Marcia. He had prom- 
ised never to trouble her ; nor for a whole 
twenty years had he done so ; though he had 
often sighed for her as a friend of sterling 
common-sense in practical difficulties. 

Her parents were, he believed, dead ; and 
she, he knew, had never gone back to the isle. 
Possibly she had formed some new tie abroad, 
and had made it next to impossible to dis- 
cover her by her old name. 

A reposeful time ensued. Almost his first 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

entry into society after his father's death oc- 
curred one evening when, for want of knowing 
what better to do, he responded to an invita- 
tion sent by one of the few ladies of rank 
whom he numbered among his friends, and set 
out in a cab for the square wherein she lived 
during three or four months of the year. 

The hansom turned the corner, and he ob- 
tained a raking view of the houses along the 
north side, of which hers was one, with the 
familiar linkman at the door. There were 
Chinese lanterns, too, on the balcony. He 
perceived in a moment that the customary 
" small and early " reception had resolved it- 
self on this occasion into something very like 
great and late. He remembered that there 
had just been a political crisis, which account- 
ed for the enlargement of the Countess of 
ChannelclifTe's assembly ; for hers was one of 
the neutral or non-political houses at which 
party politics are more freely agitated than at 
the professedly party gatherings. 

There was such a string of carriages that 
Pierston did not wait to take his turn at the 
door, but unobtrusively alighted some yards 
off and walked forward. He had to pause a 
moment behind the wall of spectators which 

85 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

barred his way, and as he paused some ladies 
in white cloaks crossed from their carriages to 
the door on the carpet laid for the purpose. 
He had not seen their faces, nothing of them 
but vague forms, and yet he was suddenly 
seized with a presentiment. Its gist was that 
he might be going to re-encounter the Well- 
Beloved that night ; after her recent long hid- 
ing she meant to reappear and intoxicate him. 
That liquid sparkle of her eye, that lingual 
music, that' turn of the head, how well he 
knew it all, despite the many superficial 
changes ! and how instantly he would recog- 
nize it under whatever complexion, contour, 
accent, height, or carriage it might choose to 
masquerade ! 

Pierston's other conjecture, that the night 
was to be a lively political one, received con- 
firmation as soon as he reached the hall, 
where a simmer of excitement was perceptible ' 
as surplus or overflow from above down the 
staircase — a feature which he had always no- 
ticed to be present when any climax or sensa- 
tion had been reached in the world of party 
and faction. 

" And where have you been keeping your- 
self so long, young man ?" said his hostess, 

86 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

archly, when he had shaken hands with her. 
(Pierston was always regarded as a young 
man, though he was now about forty.) " Oh 
yes, of course, I remember," she added, look- 
ing serious in a moment at thought of his loss. 
The Countess was a woman with a good- 
natured manner, verging on that oft-claimed 
feminine quality, humor, and was quickly 
sympathetic. 

She then began to tell him of a scandal in 
the political side to which she nominally be- 
longed, one that had come out of the present 
crisis; and that, as for herself, she had sworn 
to abjure politics forever on account of it, so 
that he was to regard her forthwith as a more 
neutral householder than ever. By this time 
some more people had surged upstairs, and 
Pierston prepared to move on. 

"You are looking for somebody — I can see 
that," said she. 

" Yes — a lady," said Pierston. 

"Tell me her name, and I'll try to think if 
she's here." 

" I cannot ; I don't know it," he said. 

" Indeed ! What is she like?" 

" I cannot describe her, not even her com- 
plexion or dress." 

87 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Lady Channelcliffe looked a pout, as if she 
thought he were teasing her, and he moved on 
in the current. The fact was that, for a moment, 
Pierston fancied he had made the sensational 
discovery that the One he was in search of 
lurked in the person of the very hostess he 
had conversed with, who was charming always, 
and particularly charming to-night ; he was 
just feeling an incipient consternation at the 
possibility of such a jade's trick in his Beloved, 
who had once before chosen to embody her- 
self as a married woman, though happily at 
that time with no serious results. However, 
he felt that he had been mistaken, and that 
the fancy had been solely owing to the highly 
charged electric condition in which he had 
arrived by reason of his recent isolation. 

The whole set of rooms formed one great 
utterance of the opinions of the hour. The 
gods of party were present with their em- 
battled seraphim, but the brilliancy of manner 
and form in the handling of public questions 
was only less conspicuous than the paucity of 
original ideas. No principles of wise govern- 
ment had place in any mind, a blunt and jolly 
personalism as to the Ins and Outs animating 
all. But Jocelyn's interest did not run in this 

88 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

stream ; he was like a stone in a purling brook, 
waiting for some peculiar floating object to 
be brought towards him and to stick upon his 
mental surface. 

Thus looking for the next new version of 
the fair figure, he did not consider at the 
moment, though he had done so at other times, 
that this presentiment of meeting her was, of 
all presentiments, just the sort of one to work 
out its own fulfilment. 

He looked for her in the knot of persons 
gathered round a past prime-minister, who was 
standing in the middle of the largest room dis- 
coursing in the genial, almost jovial, manner 
natural to him at these times. The two or 
three ladies forming his audience had been 
joined by another in black and white, and it 
was on her that Pierston's attention was di- 
rected, as well as the great statesman's, whose 
first sheer gaze at her, expressing " Who are 
you ?" almost audibly, changed into an inter- 
ested, listening look as the few words she 
spoke were uttered — for the minister differed 
from many of his standing in being extremely 
careful not to interrupt a timid speaker, giving 
way in an instant if anybody else began with 
him. Nobody knew better than himself that 

89 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

all may learn, and his manner was that of an 
unconceited man who could catch an idea 
readily, even if he could not undertake to 
create one. 

The lady told her little story — whatever it 
was Jocelyn could not hear it — the statesman 
laughed " Haugh-haugh-haugh !" 

The lady blushed. Jocelyn, wrought up to 
a high tension by the aforesaid presentiment 
that his Shelleyan "One-shape-of-many-names" 
was about to reappear, paid little heed to the 
others, watching for a full view of the lady 
who had won his attention. 

That lady remained for the present partially 
screened by her neighbors. A diversion was 
caused by Lady ChannelclifTe bringing up 
somebody to present to the ex-minister ; the 
ladies got mixed, and Jocelyn lost sight of the 
one whom he was beginning to suspect as the 
stealthily returned absentee. 

He looked for her in a kindly young lady of 
the house, his hostess's relation, who appeared 
to more advantage that night than she had 
ever done before — in a sky-blue dress, which 
had nothing between it and the fair skin of her 
neck, lending her an unusually soft and sylph- 
like aspect. She saw him, and they converged. 

90 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

Her look of " What do you think of me now ?" 
was suggested, he knew, by the thought that 
the last time they met she had appeared un- 
der the disadvantage of mourning clothes, on 
a wet day, in a country-house where every- 
body was cross. 

" I have some new photographs, and I want 
you to tell me whether they are good," she 
said. " Mind, you are to tell me truly, and no 
favor." 

She produced the pictures from an adjoining 
drawer, and they sat down together upon an 
ottoman for the purpose of examination. The 
portraits, taken by the last fashionable photog- 
rapher, were very good, and he told her so ; 
but as he spoke and compared them his mind 
was fixed on something else than the mere 
judgment. He wondered whether the elusive 
one were indeed in the frame of this girl. 

He looked up at her. To his surprise, her 
mind, too, was on other things bent than on 
the pictures. Her eyes were glancing away to 
distant people ; she was apparently consider- 
ing the effect she was producing upon them by 
this cozy tete-a-tete with Pierston, and upon 
one in particular, a man of thirty, of military 
appearance, whom Pierston did not know. 

91 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Quite convinced now that no phantom belong- 
ing to him was contained in the outlines of the 
present young lady, he could coolly survey her 
as he responded. They were both doing the 
same thing — each was pretending to be deeply 
interested in what the other was talking about, 
the attention of the two alike flitting away to 
other corners of the room even when the very 
point of their discourse was pending. 

No, he had not seen her yet. He was not 
going to see her, apparently, to-night ; she was 
scared away by the twanging political atmos- 
phere. But he still moved on searchingly, 
hardly heeding certain spectral imps other than 
Aphroditean who always haunted these places, 
and jeeringly pointed out that under the white 
hair of this or that ribboned old man, with a 
forehead grown wrinkled over treaties which 
had swayed the fortunes of Europe, with a 
voice which had numbered sovereigns among 
its respectful listeners, might be a heart that 
would go inside a nutshell ; that beneath this 
or that white rope of pearl and pink bosom 
might lie the half-lung which had, by hook or 
by crook, to sustain its possessor above ground 
till the wedding-day. 

At that moment he encountered his amiable 

92 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

host, and almost simultaneously caught sight 
of the lady who had at first attracted him and 
then had disappeared. Their eyes met, far off 
as they were from each other. Pierston laughed 
inwardly; it was only in ticklish excitement 
as to whether this was to prove a true trou- 
vaille ', and with no instinct to mirth ; for when 
under the eyes of his Jill-o'-the-Wisp he was 
more inclined to palpitate like a sheep in a fair. 

However, for the minute he had to converse 
with his host, Lord Channelcliffe, and almost 
the first thing that friend said to him was, 
" Who is that pretty woman in the black dress 
with the white fluff about it and the pearl 
necklace?" 

" I don't know," said Jocelyn, with incipient 
jealousy ; " I was just going to ask the same 
thing." 

"Oh, we shall find out presently, I suppose. 
I dare say my wife knows." They had parted, 
when a hand came upon his shoulder. Lord 
Channelcliffe had turned back for an instant : 
" I find she is the granddaughter of my father's 
old friend, the last Lord Hengistbury. Her 
name is Mrs. — Mrs. Pine-Avon ; she lost her 
husband two or three years ago, very shortly 
after their marriage." 

93 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Lord Channelcliffe became absorbed into 
some adjoining dignitary of the Church, and 
Pierston was left to pursue his quest alone. A 
young friend of his — the Lady Mabella But- 
termead, who appeared in a cloud of muslin 
and was going on to a ball — had been brought 
against him by the tide. A warm-hearted, 
emotional girl was Lady Mabella, who laughed 
at the humorousness of being alive. She asked 
him whither he was bent, and he told her. 

" Oh yes, I know her very well !" said Lady 
Mabella eagerly. " She told me one day that 
she particularly wished to meet you. Poor 
thing — so sad — she lost her husband. Well, it 
was a long time ago now, certainly! Women 
ought not to marry and lay themselves open to 
such catastrophes, ought they, Mr. Pierston? 
/ never shall. I am determined never to run 
such a risk! Now, do you think I shall?" 

" Marry? Oh no; never," said Pierston, dryly. 

" That's very comforting." But Mabella was 
scarcely comfortable under the answer, even 
though jestingly returned, and she added: 
" But sometimes I think I may, just for the fun 
of it. . . . Now we'll steer across to her and 
catch her, and I'll introduce you. But we shall 
never get to her at this rate !" 

94 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

" Never, unless we adopt ' the ugly rush,' 
like the citizens who follow the Lord Mayor's 
Show." 

They talked, and inched towards the de- 
sired one, who, as she discoursed with a neigh- 
bor, seemed one of those 

" Female forms, whose gestures beam with mind," 

seen by the poet in his Vision of the Golden 
City of Islam. 

Their progress was continually checked. 
Pierston was, as he had sometimes seemed 
to be, in a dream, unable to advance towards 
the object of pursuit unless he could have 
gathered up his feet into the air. After ten 
minutes given to a preoccupied regard of 
shoulder-blades, back hair, glittering head- 
gear, neck-napes, moles, hairpins, pearl-pow- 
der, pimples, minerals cut into facets of many- 
colored rays, necklace-clasps, fans, stays, the 
seven styles of elbow and arm, the thirteen 
varieties of ear, and by using the toes of his 
dress-boots as colters, with which he ploughed 
his way and that of Lady Mabella in the 
direction they were aiming at, he drew near 
to Mrs. Pine-Avon, who was drinking a cup 
of tea in the back drawing-room. 

05 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" My dear Nichola, we thought we should 
never get to you, because it is worse to-night, 
owing to these dreadful politics ! But we've 
done it." And she proceeded to tell her 
friend of Pierston's existence hard by. 

It seemed that the widow really did wish 
to know him, and that Lady Mabella Butter- 
mead had not indulged in one of the too fre- 
quent inventions of that kind. When the 
youngest of the trio had made the pair ac- 
quainted with each other she left them to 
talk to a younger man than the sculptor. 

Mrs. Pine- Avon's black velvets and silks, 
with their white accompaniments, finely set 
off the exceeding fairness of her neck and 
shoulders, which, though unwhitened artifi- 
cially, were without a speck or blemish of the 
least degree. The gentle, thoughtful creature 
she had looked from a distance she now 
proved herself to be ; she held also sound 
rather than current opinions on the plastic 
arts, and was the first intellectual woman he 
had seen there that night, except one or two 
as aforesaid. 

They soon became well acquainted, and at 
a pause in their conversation noticed the new 
excitement caused by the arrival of some late- 

96 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

comers with more news. The latter had been 
brought by a rippling, bright-eyed lady in 
black, who made the men listen to her, 
whether they would or no. 

" I am glad I am an outsider," said Joce- 
lyn's acquaintance, now seated on a sofa be- 
side which he was standing. " I wouldn't be 
like my cousin over there for the world. 
She thinks her husband will be turned out 
at the next election, and she's quite wild." 

" Yes ; it is mostly the women who are the 
gamesters ; the men only the cards. The pity 
is that politics are looked on as being a game 
for politicians, just as cricket is a game for 
cricketers ; not as the serious duties of politi- 
cal trustees." 

" How few of us ever think or feel that ' the 
nation of every country dwells in the cottage,' 
as somebody says !" 

" Yes ; though I wonder to hear you quote 
that." 

"Oh — I am of no party, though my relations 
are. There can be only one best course at all 
times, and the wisdom of the nation should be 
directed to finding it, instead of zigzagging in 
two courses, according to the will of the party 
which happens to have the upper hand." 
g 97 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



Having started thus, they found no diffi- 
culty in agreeing on many points. When 
Pierston went down -stairs from that assem- 
bly at a quarter to one, and passed under the 
steaming nostrils of an ambassador's horses 
to a hansom which waited for him against the 
railing of the square, he had an impression 
that the Beloved had re -emerged from the 
shadows, without any hint or initiative from 
him — to whom, indeed, such re-emergence 
was an unquestionably awkward thing. 

In this he was aware, however, that though 
it might be now, as heretofore, the Loved who 
danced before him, it was the goddess behind 
her who pulled the string of that Jumping Jill. 

He had lately been trying his artist hand 
again on the Dea's form in every conceivable 
phase and mood. He had become a one-part 
man — a presenter of her only. But his efforts 
had resulted in failures. In her implacable 
vanity she might be punishing him anew for 
presenting her so deplorably. 



II 

SHE DRAWS CLOSE AND SATISFIES 

He could not forget Mrs. Pine-Avon's eyes, 
though he remembered nothing of her other 
facial details. They were round, inquiring, 
luminous. How that chestnut hair of hers 
had shone ! It required no tiara to set it off, 
like that of the dowager he had seen there, 
v/ho had put ten thousand pounds upon her 
head to make herself look worse than she 
would have appeared with the ninepenny mus- 
lin cap of a servant-woman. 

Now the question was, ought he to see her 
again ? He had his doubts. But, unfortu- 
nately for discretion, just when he was com- 
ing out of the rooms he had encountered an 
old lady of seventy, his friend Mrs. Bright- 
walton — the Honorable Mrs. Brightwalton — 
and she had hastily asked him to dinner for 
the day after the morrow, stating in the hon- 
est way he knew so well that she had heard 

99 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

he was out of town or she would have asked 
him two or three weeks ago. Now, of all so- 
cial things that Pierston liked it was to be 
asked to dinner offhand, as a stop-gap in place 
of some bishop, lord, or under-secretary who 
couldn't come ; and when the invitation was 
supplemented by the tidings that the lady 
who had so impressed him was to be one of 
the guests, he had promised instantly. 

At the dinner he took down Mrs. Pine-Avon 
upon his arm, and talked to nobody else dur- 
ing the meal. Afterwards they kept apart 
awhile in the drawing-room for form's sake, 
but eventually gravitated together again, and 
finished the evening in each other's company. 
When, shortly after eleven, he came away he 
felt almost certain that within those luminous 
gray eyes the One of his eternal fidelity had 
verily taken lodgings — and for a long lease. 
But this was not all. At parting he had, al- 
most involuntarily, given her hand a pressure 
of a peculiar and indescribable kind ; a little 
response from her, like a mere pulsation of the 
same sort, told him that the impression she had 
made upon him was reciprocated. She was, in 
a word, willing to go on. 

But was he able ? 

IOO 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

There had not been much harm in the flirta- 
tion thus far ; but did she know his history, 
the curse upon his nature ? — that he was the 
Wandering Jew of the love-world ; how rest- 
lessly ideal his fancies were ; how the artist 
in him had consumed the wooer; how he was 
in constant dread lest he should wrong some 
woman twice as good as himself by seeming 
to mean what he fain would mean but could 
not ; how useless he was likely to be for prac- 
tical steps towards householding, though he 
was all the while pining for domestic life ? He 
was now over forty, she was probably thirty ; 
and he dared not make unmeaning love with 
the careless selfishness of a younger man. It 
was unfair to go further without telling her, 
even though hitherto such explicitness had 
not been absolutely demanded. 

He determined to call immediately on the 
New Incarnation. 

She lived not far from the long-fashionable 
Hamptonshire Square, and he went hither with 
expectations of having a highly emotional 
time, at least. But somehow the very bell- 
pull seemed cold, although she had so ear- 
nestly asked him to come. 

As the house spoke, so spoke the occupant, 

IOI 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

much to the astonishment of the sculptor. 
The doors he passed through seemed as if 
they had not been opened for a month ; and, 
entering the large drawing-room, he beheld, 
in an easy -chair in the far distance, a lady 
whom he journeyed across the carpet to reach, 
and ultimately did reach. To be sure, it was 
Mrs. Nichola Pine-Avon, but frosted over in- 
describably. Raising her eyes in a slightly 
inquiring manner from the book she was read- 
ing, she leaned back in the chair, as if soaking 
herself in luxurious sensations which had noth- 
ing to do with him, and replied to his greet- 
ing with a few commonplace words. 

The unfortunate Jocelyn, though recupera- 
tive to a degree, was at first terribly upset by 
this reception. He had distinctly begun to 
love Nichola, and he felt sick and almost re- 
sentful. But happily his affection was incip- 
ient as yet. and a sudden sense of the ridicu- 
lous in his own position carried him to the 
verge of risibility during the scene. She sig- 
nified a chair, and began the critical study of 
some rings she wore. 

They talked over the day's news, and then 
an organ began to grind outside. The tune 
was a rollicking air he had heard at some 

102 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

music-hall ; and, by way of a diversion, he 
asked her if she knew the composition. 

" No, I don't," she replied. 

" Now, I'll tell you all about it," said he, 
gravely. " It is based on a sound old melo- 
dy called 'The Jilt's Hornpipe.' Just as they 
turn Madeira into port in the space of a single 
night, so this old air has been taken and doc- 
tored and twisted about and brought out as 
a new popular ditty." 

" Indeed!" 

" If you are in the habit of going much to 
the music-halls or the burlesque theatres — " 

"Yes?" 

"You would find this is often done, with 
excellent effect." 

vShe thawed a little, and then they went on 
to talk about her house, which had been new- 
ly painted, and decorated with greenish -blue 
satin up to the height of a person's head — 
an arrangement that somewhat improved her 
slightly faded, though still pretty, face, and 
was helped by the awnings over the windows. 

" Yes ; I have had my house some years," 
she observed, complacently, " and I like it 
better every year." 

"Don't you feel lonely in it sometimes?" 
H 103 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Oh, never!" 

However, before he rose she grew friendly 
to some degree, and when he left, just after 
the arrival of three opportune young ladies, 
she seemed regretful. She asked him to come 
again ; and he thought he would tell the truth. 
"No; I shall not care to come again," he an- 
swered, in a tone inaudible to the young 
ladies. 

She followed him to the door. "What an 
uncivil thing to say!" she murmured, in sur- 
prise. 

"It is rather uncivil. Good-bye," said 
Pierston. 

As a punishment she did not ring the bell, 
but left him to find his way out as he could. 
" Now what the devil this means I cannot tell," 
he said to himself, reflecting stock-still for a 
moment on the stairs. And yet the meaning 
was staring him in the face. 

Meanwhile one of the three young ladies 
had said, " What interesting man was that, 
with his lovely head of hair? I saw him at 
Lady Channelcliffe's the other night." 

"Jocelyn Pierston." 

" Oh, Nichola, that is too bad ! To let him 
go in that shabby way, when I would have 

104 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

given anything to know him ! I have wanted 
to know him ever since I found out how much 
his experiences had dictated his statuary, and 
I discovered them by seeing in a Jersey paper 
notice of the marriage of a person supposed to 
be his wife, who ran off with him many years 
ago, don't you know, and then wouldn't marry 
him, in obedience to some novel social prin- 
ciples she had invented for herself." 

"Oh! didn't he marry her?" said Mrs. Pine- 
Avon, with a start. "Why, I heard only yes- 
terday that he did, though they have lived 
apart ever since." 

" Quite a mistake," said the young lady. 
" How I wish I could run after him !" 

But Jocelyn was receding from the pretty 
widow's house with long strides. He went 
out very little during the next few days, but 
about a week later he kept an engagement to 
dine with Lady Iris Speedwell, whom he nev- 
er neglected, because she was the brightest 
hostess in London. 

By some accident he arrived rather early. 
Lady Iris had left the drawing-room for a mo- 
ment to see that all was ri^ht in the dining- 
room, and when he was shown in, there stood 
alone in the lamplight Nichola Pine-Avon. 

105 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

She had been the first arrival. He had not in 
the least expected to meet her there, further 
than that, in a general sense, at Lady Iris's 
you expected to meet everybody. 

She had just come out of the,, cloak-room, 
and was so tender and even apologetic that he 
had not the heart to be other than friendly. 
As the other guests dropped in, the pair re- 
treated into a shady corner, and she talked 
beside him till all moved off for the eating and 
drinking. 

He had not been appointed to take her 
across to the dining-room, but at the table 
found her exactly opposite. She looked very 
charming between the candles, and then sud- 
denly it dawned upon him that her previous 
manner must have originated in some false 
report about Marcia, of whose existence he 
had not heard for years. Anyhow, he was 
not disposed to resent an inexplicability in 
womankind, having found that it usually arose 
independently of fact, reason, probability, or 
his own deserts. 

So he dined on, catching her eyes and the 
few pretty words she made opportunity to 
project across the table to him now and then. 
He was courteously responsive only, but Mrs. 

1 06 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

Pine-Avon herself distinctly made advaffces. 
He readmired her, while at the same time her 
conduct in her own house had been enough 
to check his confidence — enough even to make 
him doubt if the Well-Beloved really resided 
within those contours, or had ever been more 
than the most transitory passenger through 
that interesting and accomplished soul. 

He was pondering this question, yet growing 
decidedly moved by the playful pathos of her 
attitude, when, by chance searching his pocket 
for his handkerchief, something crackled, and 
he felt there an unopened letter, which had 
arrived at the moment he was leaving his 
house and he had slipped into his coat to read 
in the cab as he drove along. Pierston drew it 
sufficiently forth to observe by the post-mark 
that it came from his natal isle. Having hardly 
a correspondent in that part of the world, now 
he began to conjecture on the possible sender. 

The lady on his right, whom he had brought 
in, was a leading actress of the town — indeed, 
of the United Kingdom and America, for that 
matter — a creature in airy clothing, trans- 
lucent, like a balsam or sea-anemone, without 
shadows, and in movement as responsive as 
some highly lubricated, many-wired machine 

107 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

which, if one presses a particular spring, flies 
open and reveals its works. The spring in the 
present case was the artistic commendation 
she deserved. At this particular moment she 
was engaged with the man on her right, a rep- 
resentative of Family, who talked positively 
and hollowly, as if shouting down a vista of 
five hundred years from the feudal past. The 
lady on Jocelyn's left, wife of a Lord Justice of 
Appeal, was in like manner talking to her com- 
panion on the outer side ; so that for the time 
he was left to himself. He took advantage of 
the opportunity, drew out his letter, and read 
it as it lay upon his napkin, nobody observing 
him, so far as he was aware. 

It came from the wife of one of his father's 
former workmen, and was concerning her son, 
whom she begged Jocelyn to recommend as 
candidate for some post in town that she 
wished him to fill. But the end of the letter 
was what arrested him : 

" You will be sorry to hear, sir, that dear little Avice 
Caro, as we used to call her in her maiden days, is 
dead. She married her cousin, if you do mind, and 
went away from here for a good few years, but was 
left a widow, and came back a twelvemonth ago; since 
when she faltered and faltered, and now she is gone." 

108 



Ill 

SHE BECOMES AN INACCESSIBLE GHOST 

By imperceptible and slow degrees the scene 
at the dinner -table receded into the back- 
ground, behind the vivid presentment of Avice 
Caro and the old, old scenes on Isle Vindilia 
which were inseparable from her personality. 
The dining-room was real no more, dissolving 
under the bold, stony promontory and the in- 
coming West Sea. The handsome marchioness 
in geranium-red and diamonds, who was visible 
to him on his host's right hand opposite, be- 
came one of the glowing vermilion sunsets 
that he had watched so many times over 
Deadman's Bay, with the form of Avice in the 
foreground. Between his eyes and the judge 
who sat next to Nichola, with a chin so raw 
that he must have shaved every quarter of 
an hour during the day, intruded the face of 
Avice as she had glanced at him in their last 
parting. The crannied features of the old so- 

109 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

ciety lady, who, if she had been a few years 
older, would have been as old-fashioned as her 
daughter, shaped themselves to the dusty 
quarries of his and Avice's parents, down 
which he had clambered with Avice hundreds 
of times. The ivy trailing about the table- 
cloth, the lights in the tall candlesticks, and 
the bunches of flowers were transmuted into 
the ivies of the cliff-built castle, the tufts of 
seaweed, and the lighthouses on the isle. The 
salt airs of the ocean killed the smell of the 
viands, and instead of the clatter of voices 
came the monologue of the tide off the Beal. 

More than all, Nichola Pine-Avon lost the 
blooming radiance which she had latterly ac- 
quired ; she became a woman of his acquaint- 
ance with no distinctive traits; she seemed to 
grow material, a superficies of flesh and bone 
merely, a person of lines and surfaces ; she was 
a language in living cipher no more. 

When the ladies had withdrawn it was just 
the same. The soul of Avice — the only woman 
he had never lovecTof those who had loved him 
— surrounded him like a firmament. Art drew 
near to him in the person of one of the most 
distinguished of portrait - painters ; but there 
was only one painter for Jocelyn — his own 

no 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

memory. All that was eminent in European 
surgery addressed him in the person of that 
harmless and unassuming fogy whose hands 
had been inside the bodies of hundreds of 
living men; but the lily-white corpse of an 
obscure country-girl chilled the interest of dis- 
course with such a king of operators. 

Reaching the drawing-room, he talked to 
his hostess. Though she had entertained 
twenty guests at her table that night she had 
known not only what every one of them was 
saying and doing throughout the repast, but 
what every one was thinking. So, being an 
old friend, she said, quietly, " What has been 
troubling you? Something has, I know. I 
have been travelling over your face and have 
seen it there." 

Nothing coujd less express the meaning his 
recent news had for him than a statement of 
its facts. He told of the opening of the letter 
and the discovery of the death of an old ac- 
quaintance. 

" The only woman whom I never valued, I 
may almost say," he added ; " and therefore 
the only one I shall ever regret." 

Whether she considered it a sufficient ex- 
planation or not, the woman of experiences 

in 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

accepted it as such. She was the single lady 
of his circle whom nothing erratic in his 
doings could surprise, and he often gave her 
stray ends of his confidence thus with perfect 
safety. 

He did not go near Mrs. Pine- Avon again ; 
he could not ; and on leaving the house 
walked abstractedly along the streets till he 
found himself at his own door. In his own 
room he sat down, and, placing his hands be- 
hind his head, thought his thoughts anew. 

At one side of the room stood an escritoire, 
and from a lower drawer therein he took out 
a small box tightly nailed down. He forced 
the cover with the poker. The box contained 
a variety of odds and ends, which Pierston 
had thrown into it from time to time in past 
years for future sorting — an intention that he 
had never carried out. From the melancholy 
mass of papers — faded photographs, seals, di- 
aries, withered flowers, and such like — Joce- 
lyn drew a little portrait, one taken on glass 
in the primitive days of photography, and 
framed with tinsel in the commonest way. 

It was Avice Caro, as she had appeared 
during the summer month or two which he 
had spent with her on the island twenty years 

112 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

before this time, her young lips pursed up, he| 
hands meekly folded. The effect of the glasi 
was to lend to the picture much of the soft- 
ness characteristic of the original. He re- 
membered when it was taken — during one 
afternoon they had spent together at a neigh- 
boring watering-place, when he had suggested 
her sitting to a touring artist on the sands, 
there being nothing else for them to do. A 
long contemplation of the likeness completed 
in his emotions what the letter had begun. 
He loved the woman dead and inaccessible 
as he had never loved her in life. He had 
thought of her but at distant intervals during 
the twenty years since that parting occurred, 
and only as somebody he could have wed- 
ded. Yet now the times of youthful friend- 
ship with her, in which he had learned every 
note of her innocent nature, flamed up into 
a yearning and passionate attachment, embit- 
tered by regret beyond words. 

That kiss which had offended his dignity, 
which she had so childishly given him before 
her consciousness of womanhood had been 
awakened, what he would have offered to 
have a quarter of it now ! 

Pierston was almost angry with himself for 
h 113 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

his feelings of this night, so unreasonably, 
motivelessly strong were they towards the 
lost young playmate. " How senseless of me!" 
he said, as he lay in his lonely bed. She had 
been another man's wife almost the whole 
time since he was estranged from her, and 
now she was a corpse. Yet the absurdity did 
not make his grief the less ; and the con- 
sciousness of the intrinsic, almost radiant, 
purity of this new-sprung affection for a flown 
spirit forbade him to check it. The flesh was 
absent altogether ; it was love rarefied and re- 
fined to its highest attar. He had felt nothing 
like it before. 

The next afternoon he went down to the 
club ; not his large club, where the men hard- 
ly spoke to each other, but the homely one, 
where they told stories of an afternoon, and 
were not ashamed to confess among them- 
selves to personal weaknesses and follies, 
knowing well that such secrets would go no 
farther. But he could not tell this. So 
volatile and intangible was the story that to 
convey it in words would have been as hard 
as to cage a perfume. 

They observed his altered manner and said 
he was in love. Pierston admitted that he 

114 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

was; and there it ended. When he reached 
home he looked out of his bedroom window, 
and began to consider in what direction from 
where he stood that darling little figure lay. 
It was straight across there, under the young 
pale moon. The symbol signified well. The 
divinity of the silver bow was not more ex- 
cellently pure than she, the lost, had been. 
Under that moon was the island of Ancient 
Slingers, and on the island a house, framed 
from mullions to chimney-top like the isle 
itself, of stone. Inside the window, the moon- 
light irradiating her winding-sheet, lay Avice, 
reached only by the faint noises inherent in 
the isle ; the tink-tink of the chisels in the 
quarries, the surging of the tides in the bay, 
and the muffled grumbling of the currents in 
the never-pacified race. 

He began to divine the truth. Avice, the 
departed one, though she had come short of 
inspiring a passion, had yet possessed a ground- 
quality absent from her rivals, without which 
it seemed that a fixed and full-rounded con- 
stancy to a woman could not flourish in him. 
Like his own, her family had been islanders for 
centuries — from Norman, Anglian, Roman, 
Balearic-British limes. Hence, in her nature, 

"5 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

as in his, was some mysterious ingredient 
sucked from the isle ; otherwise a racial in- 
stinct necessary to the absolute unison of a pair. 
Thus, though he might never love a woman of 
the island race, for lack in her of the desired 
refinement, he could not love long a kimberlin 
— a woman other than of the island race, for 
her lack of this groundwork of character. 

Such was Pierston's view of things. Another 
fancy of his, an artist's superstition merely, 
may be mentioned. The Caros, like some oth- 
er local families, suggested a Roman lineage, 
more or less grafted on the stock of the Sling- 
ers. Their features recalled those of the Italian 
peasantry to any one as familiar as he was with 
them ; and there were evidences that the Ro- 
man colonists had been populous and long- 
abiding in and near this corner of Britain. 
Tradition urged that a temple to Venus once 
stood at the top of the Roman road leading up 
into the isle ; and possibly one to the love- 
goddess of the Slingers antedated this. What 
so natural as that the true star of his soul 
would be found nowhere but in one of the old 
island breed ? 

After dinner his old friend Somers came in 
to smoke, and when they had talked a little 

116 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

while Somers alluded casually to some place at 
which they would meet on the morrow. 

" I sha'n't be there," said Pierston. 

" But you promised !" 

" Yes. But I shall be at the island — looking 
at a dead woman's grave." As he spoke his 
eyes turned and remained fixed on a table 
near. Somers followed the direction of his 
glance to a photograph on a stand. 

" Is that she ?" he asked. 

"Yes." 

" Rather a bygone affair, then." 

Pierston acknowledged it. " She's the only 
sweetheart I ever slighted, Alfred," he said. 
" Because she's the only one I ought to have 
cared for. That's just the fool I have always 
been." 

" But if she's dead and buried you can go to 
her grave at any time as well as now to keep 
up the sentiment." 

" I don't know that she's buried." 

" But to-morrow — the Academy night ! Of 
all days, why go then?" 

" I don't care about the Academy." 

" Pierston — you are our only inspired sculp- 
tor. You are our Praxiteles, or rather our 
Lysippus. You are almost the only man of 

117 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

this generation who has been able to mould 
and chisel forms living enough to draw the 
idle public away from the popular paintings 
into the usually deserted lecture- room; and 
people who have seen your last pieces of stuff 
say there has been nothing like them since 
sixteen hundred and — since the sculptors ' of 
the great race ' lived and died, whenever that 
was. Well, then, for the sake of others you 
ought not to rush off to that God-forgotten 
sea-rock just when you are wanted in town, all 
for a woman you last saw a hundred years 
ago." 

" No — it was only nineteen and three quar- 
ters," replied his friend, with abstracted literal- 
ness. He went the next morning. 

Since the days of his youth a railway had 
been constructed along the pebble bank, so 
that, except when the rails were washed away 
by the tides, which was rather often, the pen- 
insula was quickly accessible. At two o'clock 
in the afternoon he was rattled along by this 
new means of locomotion, under the familiar 
monotonous line of bran-colored stones, and he 
soon emerged from the station, standing as a 
strange exotic among the black lerrets, the 
ruins of the washed-away village, and the white 

118 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

cubes of oolite, just come to view after burial 
through unreckonable geologic years. 

In entering upon the pebble beach the train 
had passed close to the ruins of Henry the 
Eighth's or Sandsfoot Castle, whither Avice 
was to have accompanied him on the night of 
his departure. Had she appeared the primi- 
tive betrothal would probably have taken 
place ; and, as no islander had ever been known 
to break that compact, she would have become 
his wife. 

Ascending the steep incline to where the 
quarrymen were chipping, just as they had 
formerly done, and within sound of the great 
stone saws, he looked southward towards the 
Beal. 

The level line of the sea horizon rose above 
the surface of the isle, a ruffled patch in mid- 
distance as usual marking the race, whence 
many a Lycidas had gone 

" Visiting the bottom of the monstrous world," 

but had not been blessed with a poet as a 
friend. Against the stretch of water, where a 
school of mackerel twinkled in the afternoon 
light, was defined, in addition to the distant 
lighthouse, a church with its tower, standing 
i [ig 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

about a quarter of a mile off, near the edge of 
the cliff. The church-yard gravestones could 
be seen in profile against the same vast spread 
of watery babble and unrest. 

Among the graves moved the form of a man 
clothed in a white sheet, which the wind blew 
and flapped sadly every now and then. Near 
him moved six men bearing a long box, and 
two or three persons in black followed. The 
cofnn, with its twelve legs, crawled across the 
isle, while around and beneath it the flashing 
lights from the sea and the school of mackerel 
were reflected ; a fishing-boat, far out in the 
Channel, being momentarily discernible under 
the coffin also. 

The procession wandered round to a partic- 
ular corner and halted, and paused there a 
long while in the wind, the sea behind them, 
the surplice of the priest still blowing. Joce- 
lyn stood with his hat off: he was present, 
though he was a quarter of a mile off ; and he 
seemed to hear the words that were being 
said, though nothing but the wind was au- 
dible. 

He instinctively knew that it was none other 
than Avice whom he was seeing interred ; his 
Avice, as he now began presumptuously to call 

120 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

her. Presently the little group withdrew from 
before the sea-shine and disappeared. 

He felt himself unable to go farther in that 
direction, and turning aside went aimlessly 
across the open land, visiting the various spots 
that he had formerly visited with her. But, as 
if tethered to the church-yard by a cord, he 
was still conscious of being at the end of a 
radius whose pivot was the grave of Avice 
Caro; and as the dusk thickened he closed 
upon his centre and entered the church-yard 
gate. 

Not a soul was now within the precincts. 
The grave, newly shaped, was easily discover- 
able behind the church, and when the same 
young moon arose which he had observed the 
previous evening from his window in London 
he could see the yet fresh foot-marks of the 
mourners and bearers. The breeze had fallen 
to a calm with the setting of the sun: the light- 
house had opened its glaring eye, and, disin- 
clined to leave a spot sublimed both by early 
association and present regret, he moved back 
to the church-wall, warm from the afternoon 
sun, and sat down upon a window-sill facing 
the grave. 

121 



IV 

SHE THREATENS TO RESUME CORPOREAL SUBSTANCE 

The lispings of the sea beneath the cliffs 
were all the sounds that reached him, for the 
quarries were silent now. How long he sat 
here lonely and thinking he did not know. 
Neither did he know, though he felt drowsy, 
whether inexpectant sadness — that gentle sop- 
orific — lulled him into a short sleep, so that 
he lost count of time and consciousness of in- 
cident. But during some minute or minutes he 
seemed to see Avice Caro herself bending over 
and then withdrawing from her grave in the 
light of the moon. 

She seemed not a year older, not a digit less 
slender, not a line more angular, than when he 
had parted from her twenty years earlier in 
the lane hard by. A renascent reasoning on 
the impossibility of such a phenomenon as 
this being more than a dream -fancy roused 
him with a start from his heaviness. 

J23 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

" I must have been asleep," he said. 

Yet she had seemed so real. Pierston, how- 
ever, dismissed the strange impression, arguing 
that even if the information sent him of Avice's 
death should be false — a thing incredible — 
that sweet friend of his youth, despite the 
transfiguring effects of moonlight, would not 
now look the same as she had appeared nine- 
teen or twenty years ago. Were what he saw 
substantial flesh, it must have been some other 
person than Avice Caro. 

Having satisfied his sentiment by coming to 
the graveside, there was nothing more for him 
to do in the island, and he decided to return 
to London that night. But, some time remain- 
ing still on his hands, Jocelyn by a natural in- 
stinct turned his feet in the direction of East 
Quarriers, the village of his birth and of hers. 
Passing the market-square, he pursued the arm 
of road to Sylvania Castle, a private man- 
sion of comparatively modern date, in whose 
grounds stood the single plantation of trees of 
which the isle could boast. The cottages ex- 
tended close to the walls of the enclosure, and 
one of the last of these dwellings had been 
Avice's, in which, as it was her freehold, she 
possibly had died. 

123 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

To reach it he passed the gates of Sylva- 
nia, and observed above the lawn wall a board 
announcing that the house was to be let fur- 
nished. A few steps farther revealed the cot- 
tage which, with its quaint and massive stone 
features of two or three centuries' antiquity, 
was capable even now of longer resistance to 
the rasp of time than ordinary new erections. 
His attention was drawn to the window, still 
unblinded, though a lamp lit the room. He 
stepped back against the wall opposite and 
gazed in. 

At a table covered with a white cloth a young 
woman stood putting tea-things away into a 
corner cupboard. She was in all respects the 
Avice he had lost, the girl he had seen in the 
church-yard and had fancied to be the illusion 
of a dream. And though there was this time 
no doubt about her reality, the isolation of her 
position in the silent house lent her a curiously 
startling aspect. Divining the explanation, he 
waited for footsteps, and in a few moments a 
quarryman passed him on his journey home. 
Pierston inquired of the man concerning the 
spectacle. 

" Oh yes, sir; that's poor Mrs. Caro's only 
daughter, and it must be lonely for her there 

124 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

to-night, poor maid ! Yes, good-now ; she's the 
very daps of her mother — that's what every- 
body says." 

" But how does she come to be so lonely?" 
" One of her brothers went to sea and was 
drowned, and t'other is in America." 

" They were quarry-owners at one time ?" 
The quarryman ''pitched his knitch," and ex- 
plained to the seeming stranger that there had 
been three families thereabouts in the stone 
trade, who had got much involved with each 
other in the last generation. They were the 
Bencombs, the Pierstons, and the Caros. The 
Bencombs strained their utmost to outlift the 
other two, and partially succeeded. They grew 
enormously rich, sold out, and disappeared al- 
together from the island which had been their 
making. The Pierstons kept a dogged middle 
course, throve without show or noise, and also 
retired in their turn. The Caros were pulled 
completely down in the competition with the 
other two, and when Widow Caro's daughter 
married her cousin Jim Caro, he tried to regain 
for the family its original place in the three- 
cornered struggle. He took contracts at less 
than he could profit by, speculated more and 
more, till at last the crash came ; he was sold 

125 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

up, went away, and later on came back to live 
in this little cottage, which was his wife's by in- 
heritance. There he remained till his death ; 
and now his widow was gone. Hardships had 
helped on her end. 

The quarryman proceeded on his way, and 
Pierston, deeply remorseful, knocked at the 
door of the minute freehold. The girl herself 
opened it, lamp in hand. 

" Avice !" he said, tenderly ; " Avice Caro !" 
even now unable to get over the strange feel- 
ing that he was twenty years younger, ad- 
dressing Avice the forsaken. 

"Ann, sir," said she. 

" Ah, your name is not the same as your 
mother's!" 

" My second name is. And my surname. 
Poor mother married her cousin." 

" As everybody does here. . . . Well, Ann 
or otherwise, you are Avice to me. And you 
have lost her now ?" 

" I have, sir." 

She spoke in the very same sweet voice that 
he had listened to a score of years before, and 
bent eyes of the same familiar hazel inquiring- 
ly upon him. 

" I knew your mother at one time," he said: 

126 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

" and, learning of her death and burial, I took 
the liberty of calling upon you. You will for- 
give a stranger doing that?" 

" Yes," she said, dispassionately; and, glanc- 
ing round the room : " This was mother's own 
house, and now it is mine. I am sorry not to 
be in mourning on the night of her funeral, 
but I have just been to put some flowers on 
her grave, and I took it off afore going, that 
the damp mid not spoil the crape. You see, 
she was bad a long time, and I have to be 
careful, and do washing and ironing for a liv- 
ing. She hurt her side with wringing up the 
large sheets she had to wash for the Castle 
folks here." 

" I hope you won't hurt yourself doing it, 
my dear." 

" Oh no, that I sha'n't! There's Charl Wool- 

lat, and Sammy Scribben, and Ted Gibsey, and 

lots o' young chaps ; they'll wring anything 

for mc if they happen to come along. But I 

can hardly trust 'em. Sam Scribben t'other 

day twisted a linen table-cloth into two pieces, 

for all the world as if it had been a pipe-light. 

They never know when to stop in their 

wringing/ 1 

The voice truly was his Avice's ; but 

127 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Avice the Second was clearly more matter- 
of-fact, unreflecting, less cultivated than her 
mother had been. This Avice would never 
recite poetry from any platform, local or 
other, with enthusiastic appreciation of its fire. 
There was a disappointment in his recognition 
of this ; yet she touched him as few had done ; 
he could not bear to go away. " How old are 
you ?" he asked. 

" Going in nineteen." 

It was about the age of her double, Avice 
the First, when he and she had strolled to- 
gether over the cliffs during the engagement. 
But he was now forty, if a day. She before 
him was an uneducated laundress, and he was 
a sculptor and a Royal Academician, with a 
fortune and a reputation. Yet why was it an 
unpleasant sensation to him just then to recol- 
lect that he was two-score? 

He could find no further excuse for remain- 
ing, and, having still half an hour to spare, he 
went round by the road to the other or west 
side of the last-century Sylvania Castle, and 
came to the farthest house out there on the 
cliff. It was his early home. Used in the 
summer as a lodging-house for visitors, it now 
stood empty and silent, the evening wind 

128 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

swaying the euonymus and tamarisk boughs 
in the front — the only evergreen shrubs that 
could weather the whipping salt gales which 
sped past the walls. Opposite the house, far 
out at sea, the familiar light-ship winked from 
the sand-bank, and all at once there came to 
him a wild wish — that, instead of having an 
artist's reputation, he could be living here an 
illiterate and unknown man, wooing, and in a 
fair way of winning, the pretty laundress in 
the cottage hard by. 



THE RESUMPTION TAKES PLACE 

HAVING returned to London, he mechani- 
cally resumed his customary life ; but he was 
not really living there. The phantom of 
Avice, now grown to be warm flesh and 
blood, held his mind afar. He thought of 
nothing but the isle, and Avice the Second 
dwelling therein — inhaling its salt breath, 
stroked by its singing rains and by the 
haunted atmosphere of Roman Venus about 
and around the site of her perished temple 
there. The very defects in the country girl 
became charms as viewed from town. 

Nothing now pleased him so much as to 
spend that portion of the afternoon which he 
devoted to outdoor exercise in haunting the 
purlieus of the wharves along the Thames, 
where the stone of his native rock was un- 
shipped from the coasting - craft that had 
brought it thither. He would pass inside 

130 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

the great gates of these landing-places on the 
right or left bank, contemplate the white cubes 
and oblongs, imbibe their associations, call up 
the genius loci whence they came, and almost 
forget that he was in London. 

One afternoon he was walking away from 
the mud -splashed entrance to one of the 
wharves, when his attention was drawn to a 
female form on the opposite side of the way, 
going towards the spot he had just left. She 
was somewhat small, slight, and graceful ; her 
attire alone would have been enough to at- 
tract him, being simple and countrified to 
picturesqueness ; but he was more than at- 
tracted by her strong resemblance to Avice 
Caro the younger — Ann Avice, as she had 
said she was called. 

Before she had receded a hundred yards he 
felt certain that it was Avice, indeed ; and his 
unifying mood of the afternoon was now so 
intense that the lost and the found Avice 
seemed essentially the same person. Their 
external likeness to each other — probably 
owing to the cousinship between the elder 
and her husband — went far to nourish the 
fantasy. lie hastily turned, and rediscovered 
the girl among the pedestrians. She kept on 

131 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

her way to the wharf, where, looking inquir- 
ingly around her for a few seconds, with the 
manner of one unaccustomed to the locality, 
she opened the gate and disappeared. 

Pierston also went up to the gate and en- 
tered. She had crossed to the landing-place, 
beyond which a lumpy craft lay moored. iDraw- 
ing nearer, he discovered her to be engaged in 
conversation with the skipper and an elderly 
woman — both come straight from the oolitic 
isle, as was apparent in a moment from their 
accent. Pierston felt no hesitation in making 
himself known as a native, the ruptured en- 
gagement between Avice's mother and him- 
self twenty years before having been known 
to few or none now living. 

The present embodiment of Avice recog- 
nized him, and with the artless candor of her 
race and years explained the situation, though 
that was rather his duty as an intruder than 
hers. 

" This is Cap'n Kibbs, sir, a distant relation 
of father's," she said. "And this is Mrs. 
Kibbs. We've come up from the island 
wi'en just for a trip, and are going to sail 
back wi'en Wednesday." 

" Oh, I see. And where arg you staying ?" 

132 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

" Here — on board." 

" What — you live on board entirely ?" 

"Yes." 

" Lord, sir," broke in Mrs. Kibbs, " I should 
be afeard o' my life to tine my eyes among 
these here kimberlins at night-time ; and even 
by day, if so be I venture into the streets, I 
nowhen forget how many turnings to the 
right and to the left 'tis to get back to Job's 
vessel — do I, Job?" 

The skipper nodded confirmation. 

"You are safer ashore than afloat," said 
Pierston," especially in the Channel, with these 
winds and those heavy blocks of stone." 

" Well," said Cap'n Kibbs, after privately 
clearing something from his mouth, "as to 
the winds, there idden much danger in them 
at this time o' year. 'lis the ocean-bound 
steamers that make the risk to craft like ours. 
If you happen to be in their course, under 
you go — cut clane in two pieces, and they 
never lying to to haul in your carcasses, and 
nobody to tell the tale." 

Pierston turned to Avice, wanting to say 
much to her, yet not knowing what to say. 
He lamely remarked at last, " You go back 
the same way, Avice ?" 

133 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Yes, sin" 

" Well, take care of yourself afloat." 

" Oh yes." 

" I hope — I may see you again soon — and 
talk to you." 

" I hope so, sir." 

He could not get further, and after a while 
Pierston left them, and went away thinking of 
Avice more than ever. 

The next day he mentally timed them 
down the river, allowing for the pause to take 
in ballast, and on the Wednesday pictured 
the sail down the open sea. That night he 
thought of the little craft under the bows 
of the huge steam-vessels, powerless to make 
itself seen or heard, and Avice, now growing 
inexpressibly dear, sleeping in her little berth 
at the mercy of a thousand chance catastrophes. 

Honest perception had told him that this 
Avice, fairer than her mother in face and 
form, was her inferior in soul and understand- 
ing. Yet the fervor which the first could 
never kindle in him was, almost to his alarm, 
burning up now. He began to have misgiv- 
ings as to some queer trick that his migratory 
Beloved was about to play him, or rather the 
capricious divinity behind that ideal lady. 

134 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

A gigantic satire upon the mutations of his 
nymph during the past twenty years seemed 
looming in the distance. A forsaking of the 
accomplished and well-connected Mrs. Pine- 
Avon for the little laundress, under the trac- 
tion of some mystic magnet which had noth- 
ing to do with reason — surely that was the 
form of the satire. 

But it was recklessly pleasant to leave the 
suspicion unrecognized as yet and follow the 
lead. 

In thinking how best to do this Pierston 
recollected that, as was customary when the 
summer-time approached, Sylvania Castle had 
been advertised for letting furnished. A soli- 
tary dreamer like himself, whose wants all lay 
in an artistic and ideal direction, did not re- 
quire such gaunt accommodation as the afore- 
said residence offered ; but the spot was all, 
and the expenses of a few months of tenancy 
therein he could well afford. A letter to the 
agent was despatched that night, and in a few 
days Jocelyn found himself -the temporary 
possessor of a place which, he had never seen 
the inside of since his childhood, and had then 
deemed the abode of unpleasant ghosts. 
k 135 



./ 



VI 

THE PAST SHINES IN THE PRESENT 

It was the evening of Pierston's arrival at 
Sylvania Castle, an ordinary manor-house on 
the brink of the cliffs ; and he had walked 
through the rooms, about the lawn, and into 
the surrounding plantation of elms, which on 
this island of treeless rock lent a unique char- 
acter to the enclosure. In name, nature, and 
accessories the property within the girdling 
wall formed a complete antithesis to every- 
thing in its precincts. To find other trees 
between Pebble-bank and Beal it was neces- 
sary to recede a little in time — to dig down to 
a loose stratum of the underlying stone-beds, 
where a forest of conifers lay as petrifactions, 
their heads all in one direction, as blown down 
by a gale in the Secondary geologic epoch. 

Dusk had closed in, and he now proceeded 
with what was, after all, the real business of 
his sojourn. The two servants who had been 

136 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

left to take care of the house were in their 
own quarters, and he went out unobserved. 
Crossing a hollow overhung by the budding 
boughs, he approached an empty garden-house 
of Elizabethan design, which stood on the 
outer wall of the grounds, and commanded 
by a window the fronts of the nearest cot- 
tages. Among them was the home of the 
resuscitated Avice. 

He had chosen this moment for his outlook 
through knowing that the villagers were in no 
hurry to pull down their blinds at nightfall. 
And, as he had divined, the inside of the 
young woman's living-room was visible to him 
as formerly, illuminated by the rays of its 
own lamp. 

A subdued thumping came every now and 
then from the apartment. She was ironing 
linen on a flannel table-cloth, a row of such 
apparel hanging on a clothes-horse by the fire. 
Her face had been pale when he encountered 
her, but now it was warm and pink with her 
exertions and the heat of the stove. Yet it 
l in perfect and passionless repose, which 
imparted a Minerva cast to the profile. When 
she glanced up, her lineaments seemed to have 
all the soul and heart that had characterized 

U7 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

her mother's, and had been with her a true 
index of the spirit within. Could it be pos- 
sible that in this case the manifestation was 
fictitious? He had met with many such ex- 
amples of hereditary persistence without the 
qualities signified by the traits. He uncon- 
sciously hoped that it was at least not entirely 
so here. 

The room was less furnished than when he 
had last beheld it. The " bo-fet," or double 
corner cupboard, where the china was formerly 
kept, had disappeared, its place being taken 
by a plain board. The tall old clock, with its 
ancient oak carcass, arched brow, and humor- 
ous mouth, was also not to be seen, a cheap 
white-dialled specimen doing its work. What 
these displacements might betoken saddened 
his humanity less than it cheered his primitive 
instinct in pointing out how her necessities 
might bring them together. 

Having fixed his residence near her for some 
lengthy time, he felt in no hurry to obtrude 
his presence just now, and went indoors. That 
this girl's frame was doomed to be a real em- 
bodiment of that olden seductive one — that 
protean dream-creature, who had never seen 
fit to irradiate the mother's image till it be- 

138 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

came a mere memory after dissolution — he 
doubted less every moment. 

There was an uneasiness in recognizing such. 
There was something abnormal in his present 
proclivity. A certain sanity had, after all, ac- 
companied his former idealizing passions ; the 
Beloved had seldom informed a personality 
which, while enrapturing his soul, simultane- 
ously shocked his intellect. A change, per- 
haps, had come. 

It was a fine morning on the morrow. 
Walking in the grounds towards the gate, he 
saw Avice entering his hired castle with a 
broad oval wicker-basket covered with a white 
cloth, which burden she bore round to the 
back door. Of course, she washed for his own 
household ; he had not thought of that. In 
the morning sunlight she appeared rather as a 
sylph than as a washerwoman ; and he could 
not but think that the slightness of her figure 
was as ill adapted to this occupation as her 
mother's had been. 

But, after all, it was not the washerwoman 
that he saw now. In front of her, on the sur- 
face of her, was shining out that more real, 
more interpenetrating being whom he knew 
so well ! The occupation of the subserving 

139 ■ 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

minion, the blemishes of the temporary creat- 
ure who formed the background, were of the 
same account in the presentation of the indis- 
pensable one as the supporting posts and 
framework in a pyrotechnic display. 

She left the house and went homeward by a 
path of which he was not aware, having prob- 
ably changed her course because she had seen 
him standing there. It meant nothing, for she 
had hardly become acquainted with him ; yet 
that she should have avoided him was a new 
experience. He had no opportunity for a fur- 
ther study of her by distant observation, and 
hit upon a pretext for bringing her face to face 
with him. He found fault with his linen, and 
directed that the laundress should be sent for. 

" She is rather young, poor little thing," said 
the housemaid, apologetically. " But since her 
mother's death she has enough to do to keep 
above water, and we make shift with her. But 
I'll tell her, sir." 

" I will see her myself. Send her in when 
she comes," said Pierston. 

One morning, accordingly, when he was 

answering a spiteful criticism of a late work of 

his, he was told that she waited his pleasure 

in the hall. He went out. 

* 140 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

"About the washing," said the sculptor, 
stiffly. " I am a very particular person, and I 
wish no preparation of lime to be used." 

" I didn't know folks used it," replied the 
maiden, in a scared and reserved tone, without 
looking at him. 

" That's all right. And then, the mangling 
smashes the buttons." 

" I haven't got a mangle, sir," she murmured. 

"Ah, that's satisfactory. And I object to 
so much borax in the starch." 

" I don't put any," Avice returned in the 
same close way ; " never heard the name o't 
afore !" 

"Oh, I see!" 

All this time Pierston was thinking of the 
girl — or, as the scientific might say, Nature 
was working her plans for the next generation 
under the cloak of a dialogue on linen. He 
could not read her individual character, owing 
to the confusing effect of her likeness to a 
woman whom he had valued too late. He 
could not help seeing in her all that he knew 
of another, and veiling in her all that did not 
harmonize with his sense of metempsychosis. 

The girl seemed to think of nothing but the 
business in hand. She had answered to the 

141 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

point, and was hardly aware of his sex or of 
his shape. 

" I knew your mother, Avice," he said. 
" You remember my telling you so ?" 

" Yes." 

" Well — I have taken this house for two 
or three months, and you will be very use- 
ful to me. You still live just outside the 
wall?" 

" Yes, sir," said the self-contained girl. 

Demurely and dispassionately she turned to 
leave — this pretty creature with features so 
still. There was something strange in seeing 
move off thus that form which he knew pass- 
ing well, she who was once so throbbingly 
alive to his presence that, not many yards 
from this spot, she had flung her arms round 
him and given him a kiss which, despised in 
its freshness, had revived in him latterly as 
the dearest kiss of all his life. And now this 
"daps" of her mother (as they called her in 
the dialect here), this perfect copy, why did 
she turn away ? 

"Your mother was a refined and well-in- 
formed woman, I think I remember?" 

" She was, sir ; everybody said so." 

" I hope you resemble her." 

142 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

She archly shook her head and drew warily 
away. 

" Oh ! one thing more, Avice. I have not 
brought much linen, so you must come to the 
house every day." 

" Very good, sir." 

" You won't forget that?" 

"Oh no." 

Then he let her go. He was a town man, 
and she an artless islander, yet he had opened 
himself out like a sea-anemone without dis- 
turbing the epiderm of her nature. It was 
monstrous that a maiden who had assumed the 
personality of her of his tenderest memory 
should be so impervious. Perhaps it was he 
who was wanting. Avice might be Passion 
masking as Indifference, because he was so 
many years older in outward show. 

This brought him to the root of it. In his 
heart he was not a day older than when he had 
wooed the mother at the daughter's present 
age. His record moved on with the years ; his 
sentiments stood still. 

When he beheld those of his fellows who 
were defined as buffers and fogies — imper- 
turbable, matter-of-fact, slightly ridiculous 
beings, past -masters in the art of populat- 

143 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

ing homes, schools, and colleges, and present 
adepts in the science of giving away brides — 
how he envied them, assuming them to feel as 
they appeared to feel, with their commerce and 
their politics, their glasses and their pipes! 
They had got past the distracting currents of 
passionateness, and were in the calm waters of 
middle-aged philosophy. But he, their con- 
temporary, was tossed like a cork hither and 
thither upon the crest of every fancy, precisely 
as he had been tossed when he was half his 
present age, with the burden now of double 
pain to himself in his growing vision of all as 
vanity. 

Avice had gone, and he saw her no more 
that day. Since he could not again call upon 
her, she was as inaccessible as if she had en- 
tered the military citadel on the hilltop be- 
yond them. 

In the evening he went out and paced down 
the lane to the Red King's castle overhanging 
the cliff, beside whose age the castle he occu- 
pied was but a thing of yesterday. Below the 
castle precipice lay enormous blocks, which had 
fallen from it, and several of them were carved 
over with names and initials. He knew the 
spot and the old trick well, and by searching 

144 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

in the faint moon-rays he found a pair of names 
which, as a boy, he himself had cut. They 
were " Avice " and " JOCELYN " — Avice Caro's 
and his own. The letters were now nearly 
worn away by the weather and the brine. But 
close by, in quite fresh letters, stood " Ann 
Avice," coupled with the name " Isaac." 
They could not have been there more than 
two or three years, and the " Ann Avice" was 
probably Avice the Second. Who was Isaac? 
Some boy admirer of her child-time, doubt- 
less. 

He retraced his steps, and passed the Caros' 
house towards his own. The revivified Avice 
animated the dwelling, and the light within 
the room fell upon the window. She was just 
inside that blind. 

Whenever she unexpectedly came to the 
castle he started and lost placidity. It was 
not at her presence as such, but at the new 
condition, which seemed to have something 
sinister in it. On the other hand, the most 
abrupt encounter with him moved her to no 
emotion as it had moved her prototype in the 
old days. She was indifferent to, almost un- 
conscious of, his propinquity. He was no more 
k 145 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

than a statue to her ; she was a growing fire to 
him. 

A sudden Sapphic terror of love would ever 
and anon come upon the sculptor when his 
matured reflecting powers would insist upon 
informing him of the fearful lapse from reason- 
ableness that lay in this infatuation. It threw 
him into a sweat. What if now, at last, he 
were doomed to do penance for his past emo- 
tional wanderings (in a material sense) by being 
chained in fatal fidelity to an object that his 
intellect despised ? One night he dreamed that 
he saw dimly masking behind that young 
countenance " the Weaver of Wiles " herself, 
" with all her subtle face laughing aloud." 

However, the Well-Beloved was alive again — 
had been lost and was found. He was amazed 
at the change of front in himself. She had 
worn the guise of strange women ; she had 
been a woman of every class, from the dignified 
daughter of some ecclesiastic or peer to a 
Nubian almeh with her handkerchief, undu- 
lating to the beats of the tom-tom ; but all 
these embodiments had been endowed with a 
certain smartness, either of the flesh or spirit : 
some with wit, a few with talent, and even 

genius. But the new impersonation had ap- 

146 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

parently nothing beyond sex and prettiness. 
She knew not how to sport a fan or handker- 
chief, hardly how to pull on a glove. 

But her limited life was innocent, and that 
went far. Poor little Avice ! her mother's 
image : there it all lay. After all, her parent- 
age was as good as his own ; it was misfortune 
that had sent her down to this. Odd as it 
seemed to him, her limitations were largely 
what he loved her for. Her rejuvenating 
power over him had ineffable charm. He felt 
as he had felt when standing beside her prede- 
cessor ; but, alas ! he was twenty years farther 
onward into the shade. 



VII 

THE NEW BECOMES ESTABLISHED 

A FEW mornings later he was looking through 
an upper back window over a screened part of 
the garden. The door beneath him opened, 
and a figure appeared tripping forth. She 
went round out of sight to where the gardener 
was at work, and presently returned with a 
bunch of green stuff fluttering in each hand. 
It was Avice, her dark hair now braided up 
snugly under a cap. She sailed on with a rapt 
and unconscious face, her thoughts a thousand 
removes from him. 

How she had suddenly come to be an inmate 
of his own house he could not understand, till 
he recalled the fact that he had given the castle 
servants a whole holiday to attend a review of 
the yeomanry in the watering-place over the 
bay, on their stating that they could provide a 
temporary substitute to stay in the house. 
They had evidently called in Avice. To his 

148 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

great pleasure he discovered their opinion of 
his requirements to be such a mean one that 
they had called in no one else. 

The Spirit, as she seemed to him, brought 
his lunch into the room where he was writing, 
and he beheld her uncover it. She went to the 
window to adjust a blind which had slipped, 
and he had a good view of her profile. It was 
not unlike that of one of the three goddesses 
in Rubens's " Judgment of Paris," and in con- 
tour was nigh perfection. But it was in her 
full face that the vision of her mother was 
most apparent. " Did you cook all this, Avice?" 
he asked, arousing himself. 

She turned and half smiled, merely murmur- 
ing, "Yes, sir." 

Well he knew the arrangement of those 
white teeth. In the junction of two of the 
upper ones there was a slight irregularity ; 
no stranger would have noticed it, nor would 
he, but that he knew of the same mark in her 
mother's mouth, and looked for it here. Till 
Avice the Second had revealed it this moment 
by her smile he had never beheld that mark 
since the parting from Avice the First, when 
she had smiled under his kiss as the copy had 
done now. 

149 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Next morning, when dressing, he heard her 
through the rickety floor of the building en- 
gaged in conversation with the other servants. 
Having by this time regularly installed herself 
as the exponent of the Long-pursued — as one 
who, by no initiative of his own, had been 
chosen by some superior power as the vehicle 
of her next debut, she attracted him by the 
cadences of her voice ; she would suddenly 
drop it to a rich whisper of roguishness, when 
the slight rural monotony of its narrative 
speech disappeared, and soul and heart — or 
what seemed soul and heart — resounded. The 
charm lay in the intervals, using that word in 
its musical sense. She would say a few sylla- 
bles in one note, and end her sentence in a 
soft modulation upwards, then downwards, 
then into her own note again. The curve of 
sound was as artistic as any line of beauty 
ever struck by his pencil — as satisfying as 
the curves of her who was the World's De- 
sire. 

The subject of her discourse he cared noth- 
ing about — it was no more his interest than 
his concern. He took special pains that in 
catching her voice he might not comprehend 
her words. To the tones he had a right, none 

150 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

to the articulations. By degrees he could not 
exist long without this sound. 

On Sunday evening he found that she went 
to church. He followed behind her over the 
open road, keeping his eye on the little hat 
with its bunch of cock's feathers as on a star. 
When she had passed in, Pierston observed 
her position and took a seat behind her. 

Engaged in the study of her ear and the 
nape of her white neck, he suddenly became 
aware of the presence of a lady still farther 
ahead in the aisle, whose attire, though of 
black materials in the quietest form, was of a 
cut which rather suggested London than this 
Ultima Thide. For the minute he forgot, in 
his curiosity, that Avice intervened. The lady 
turned her head somewhat, and, though she 
was veiled with unusual thickness for the 
season, he seemed to recognize Nichola Pine- 
Avon in the form. 

Why should Mrs. Pine- Avon be there? Pier- 
ston asked himself, if it should, indeed, be she. 

The end of the service saw his attention 
again concentrated on Avice to such a degree 
that at the critical moment of moving out he 
forgot the mysterious lady In front of her, and 
found that she had left the church by the side- 
L 151 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

door. Supposing it to have been Mrs. Pine- 
Avon, she would probably be discovered stay- 
ing at one of the hotels at the watering-place 
over the bay, and to have come along the 
Pebble-bank to the island, as so many did, for 
an evening drive. For the present, however, 
the explanation was not forthcoming; and he 
did not seek it. 

When he emerged from the church the great 
placid eye of the lighthouse at the Beal Point 
was open, and he moved thitherward a few 
steps to escape Nichola, or her double, and the 
rest of the congregation. Turning at length, 
he hastened homeward along the now deserted 
trackway, intending to overtake the revitalized 
Avice. But he could see nothing of her, and 
concluded that she had walked too fast for 
him. Arrived at his own gate, he paused a 
moment, and perceived that Avice's little free- 
hold was still in darkness. She had not 
come. 

He retraced his steps, but could not find her, 
the only persons on the road being a man and 
his wife, as he knew them to be, though he 
could not see them, from the words of the 
man: 

" If you had not already married me, you'd 

152 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

cut my acquaintance ! That's a pretty thing 
for a wife to say !" 

The remark struck his ear unpleasantly, and 
by-and-by he went back again. Avice's cottage 
was now lighted : she must have come round 
by the other road. Satisfied that she was 
safely domiciled for the night, he opened the 
gate of Sylvania Castle and retired to his room 
also. 

Eastward from the grounds the cliffs were 
rugged and the view of the opposite coast 
picturesque in the extreme. A little door 
from the lawn gave him immediate access to 
the rocks and shore on this side. Without the 
door was a dip-well of pure water, which pos- 
sibly had supplied the inmates of the adjoining 
and now ruinous Red King's castle at the time 
of its erection. On a sunny morning he was 
meditating here when he discerned a figure on 
the shore below spreading white linen upon 
the pebbly strand. 

Jocclyn descended. Avice, as he had sup- 
posed, had now returned to her own occupa- 
tion. Her shapely pink arms, though slight, 
were plump enough to show dimples at the 
elbows, and were set off by her purple cotton 

153 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

print, which the shore breeze licked and tanta- 
lized. He stood near, without speaking. The 
wind dragged a shirt-sleeve from the " popple," 
or pebble, which held it down. Pierston stoop- 
ed and put a heavier one in its place. 

" Thank you," she said, quietly. She turned 
up her hazel eyes, and seemed gratified to per- 
ceive that her assistant was Pierston. She had 
plainly been so wrapped in her own thoughts 
— gloomy thoughts, by their signs — that she 
had not considered him till then. 

The young girl continued to converse with 
him in friendly frankness, showing neither 
ardor nor shyness. As for love — it was evi- 
dently farther from her mind than even death 
and dissolution. 

When one of the sheets became intractable 
Jocelyn said, " Do you hold it down and I'll 
put the popples." 

She acquiesced, and in placing a pebble his 
hand touched hers. 

It was a young hand, rather long and thin, a 
little damp and coddled from her slopping. In 
setting down the last stone he laid it, by a 
pure accident, rather heavily on her fingers. 

" I am very, very sorry !" Jocelyn exclaimed. 
" Oh, I have bruised the skin, Avice !" He 

154 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

seized her fingers to examine the damage 
done. 

"No, sir, you haven't!" she cried, lumi- 
nously, allowing him to retain her hand with- 
out the least objection. " Why — that's where 
I scratched it this morning with a pin. You 
didn't hurt me a bit with the popple-stone !" 

Although her gown was purple, there was a 
little black crape bow upon each arm. He 
knew what it meant, and it saddened him. " Do 
you ever visit your mother's grave?" he asked. 

" Yes, sir, sometimes. I am going there to- 
night to water the daisies." 

She had now finished here, and they part- 
ed. That evening, when the sky was red, he 
emerged by the garden-door and passed her 
house. The blinds were not down, and he 
could see her sewing within. While he 
paused she sprang up as if she had forgotten 
the hour, and tossed on her hat. Jocelyn 
strode ahead and round the corner, and was 
half way up the straggling street before he 
discerned her little figure behind him. 

He hastened past the lads and young wom- 
en with clinking buckets who were drawing 
water from the fountains by the wayside, and 
took the direction of the church. With the 

i55 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

disappearance of the sun the lighthouse had 
again set up its flame against the sky, the 
dark church rising in the foreground. Here 
he allowed her to overtake him. 

" You loved your mother much?" said Joce- 
lyn. 

" 1 did, sir ; of course, I did," said the girl, 
who tripped so lightly that it seemed he 
might have carried her on his hand. 

Pierston wished to say, " So did I," but did 
not like to disclose events which she, appar- 
ently, did not guess. Avice fell into thought, 
and continued : 

" Mother had a very sad life for some time 
when she was about as old as I. I should not 
like mine to be as hers. Her young man 
proved false to her because she wouldn't 
agree to meet him one night, and it grieved 
mother almost all her life. I wouldn't ha' 
fretted about him, if I'd been she. She would 
never name his name, but I think he was a 
wicked, cruel man ; and I hate to think of him." 

After this he could not go into the church- 
yard with her, and w r alked onward alone to 
the south of the isle. He was wretched all 
night. Yet he would not have stood where 
he did stand in the ranks of an imaginative 

156 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

profession if he had not been at the mercy of 
every succubus of the fancy that can beset 
man. It was in his weaknesses as a citizen 
and a national unit that his strength lay as an 
artist, and he felt it childish to complain of 
susceptibilities not only innate but cultivated. 

But he was paying dearly enough for his 
Liliths. He saw a terrible vengeance ahead. 
What had he done to be tormented like this? 
The Beloved, after flitting from Nichola Pine- 
Avon to the phantom of a dead woman whom 
he never adored in her lifetime, had taken up 
her abode in the living representative of the 
dead, with a permanence of hold which the 
absolute indifference of that little brown-eyed 
representative only seemed to intensify. 

Did he really wish to proceed to marriage 
with this chit of a girl? He did; the wish 
had come at last. It was true that as he 
studied her he saw defects in addition to her 
social insufficiencies. Judgment, hoodwinked 
as it was, told him that she was colder in 
nature, commoner in character, than that well- 
read, bright little woman, Avice the First. 
But twenty years make a difference in ideals, 
and the added demands of middle-age in 
physical form are more than balanced by its 

i57 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

concessions as to the spiritual content. He 
looked at himself in the glass, and felt glad 
at those inner deficiencies in Avice which for- 
merly would have impelled him to reject her. 

There was a strange difference in his regard 
of his present folly and of his love in his 
youthful time. Now he could be mad with 
method, knowing it to be madness ; then he 
was compelled to make believe his madness 
wisdom. In those days any flash of reason 
upon his loved one's imperfections was blurred 
over hastily and with fear. Such penetrative 
vision now did not cool him. He knew he 
was the creature of a tendency ; and passively 
acquiesced. 

To use a practical eye, it appeared that, as 
he had once thought, this Caro family — 
though it might not for centuries, or ever, 
furbish up an individual nature which would 
exactly, ideally, supplement his own imper- 
fect one and round with it the perfect whole 
— was yet the only family he had ever met, or 
was likely to meet, which possessed the materi- 
als for her making. It was as if the Caros had 
found the clay but not the potter, while other 
families whose daughters might attract him 
had found the potter but not the clay. 

158 



VIII 
HIS OWN SOUL CONFRONTS HIM 

From his roomy castle, and its grounds and 
the cliffs hard by, he could command every 
move and aspect of her who was the rejuve- 
nated Spirit of the Past to him — in the efful- 
gence of whom all sordid details were disre- 
garded. 

Among other things, he observed that she 
was often anxious when it rained. If, af- 
ter a wet day, a golden streak appeared in 
the sky over Deadman's Bay, under a lid of 
cloud, her manner was joyous and her tread 
light. 

This puzzled him ; and he found that if he 
endeavored to encounter her at these times 
she shunned him — stealthily and subtly, but 
unmistakably. One evening, when she had left 
her cottage and tripped off in the direction of 
the under-hill townlet, he set out by the same 
route, resolved to await her return along the 

159 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

high roadway which stretched between that 
place and East Quarriers. 

He reached the top of the old road, where 
it makes a sudden descent to the townlet, but 
she did not appear. Turning back, he saun- 
tered along till he had nearly reached his own 
house again. Then he retraced his steps, and 
in the dim night he walked backward and 
forward on the bare and lofty convex of the 
isle ; the stars above and around him, the 
lighthouse on duty at the distant point, the 
light -ship winking from the sand -bank, the 
combing of the pebble-beach by the tide be- 
neath, the church away southwestward, where 
the island fathers lay. 

He walked the wild summit till his legs 
ached and his heart ached — till he seemed 
to hear on the upper wind the stones of the 
Slingers whizzing past, and the voices of the 
invaders who annihilated them and married 
their wives and daughters, and produced Avice 
as the ultimate flower of the combined stocks. 
Still she did not come. It was more than 
foolish to wait, yet he could not help waiting. 
At length he discerned a dot of a figure, which 
he knew to be hers rather by its motion than 

by its shape. 

1 60 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

How incomparably the immaterial dream 
dwarfed the grandest of substantial things, 
when here, between those three sublimities — 
the sky, the rock, and the ocean — the minute 
personality of this washer-girl filled his con- 
sciousness to its extremest boundary, and the 
stupendous inanimate scene shrank to a corner 
therein ! 

But all at once the approaching figure had 
disappeared. He looked about ; she had cer- 
tainly vanished. At one side of the road was 
a low wall, but she could not have gone be- 
hind that without considerable trouble and 
singular conduct. He looked behind him ; 
she had reappeared farther on the road. 

Jocelyn Pierston hurried after; and, discern- 
ing his movement, Avice stood still. When 
he came up, she was slyly shaking with re- 
strained laughter. 

" Well, what does this mean, my dear girl?" 
he asked. 

Her inner mirth escaping in spite of her, she 
turned askance and said : " When you was 
following me to Street o' Wells two hours 
ago, I looked round and saw you, and huddied 
behind a stone. You passed and brushed my 
frock without seeing me. And when, on my 
l 161 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

way backalong, I saw you waiting hereabout 
again, I slipped over the wall, and ran past 
you. If I had not stopped and looked round 
at 'ee, you would never have catched me." 

" What did you do that for, you elf?" 

" That you shouldn't find me." 

" That's not exactly a reason. Give another, 
dear Avice," he said, as he turned and walked 
beside her homeward. 

She hesitated. " Come !" he urged again. 

" 'Twas because I thought you wanted to 
be my young man," she answered. 

" What a wild thought of yours ! Suppos- 
ing I did, wouldn't you have me?" 

" Not now. . . . And not for long, even if it 
had been sooner than now." 

"Why?" 

" If I tell you, you won't laugh at me or let 
anybody else know?" 

" Never." 

" Then I will tell you," she said, quite seri- 
ously. " 'Tis because I get tired o' my lovers 
as soon as I get to know them well. What I 
see in one young man for a while soon leaves 
him and goes into another yonder, and I fol- 
low, and then what I admire fades out of him 
and springs up somewhere else ; and so I fol- 

162 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

low on, and never fix to one. I have loved 
fifteen a ready ! Yes, fifteen; I am almost 
ashamed to say," she repeated, laughing. " I 
can't help it, sir, I assure you. Of course it is 
really, to me, the same one all through, on'y 
I can't catch him !" She added, anxiously, 
"You won't tell anybody o' this in me, will 
you, sir? Because if it were known I am 
afraid no man would like me." 

Pierston was surprised into stillness. Here 
was this obscure and almost illiterate girl en- 
gaged in the pursuit of the impossible ideal, 
just as he had been himself doing for the 
last twenty years. She was doing it quite 
involuntarily, by sheer necessity of her or- 
ganization, puzzled all the while at her own 
instinct. He suddenly thought of its bear- 
ing upon himself, and said, with a sinking 
heart : 

"Am I— one of them?" 

She pondered critically. 

" You was — for a week — when I first saw 

_ >> 
you. 

" Only a week?" 
"About that." 

"What made the being of your fancy for- 
sake my form and go elsewhere ? M 

i c 3 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" Well — though you seemed handsome and 
gentlemanly at first — " 

"Yes?" 

" I found 'ee too old soon after." 

" You are a candid young person." 

" But you asked me, sir !" she expostu- 
lated. 

" I did ; and, having been answered, I won't 
intrude upon you longer. So cut along home 
as fast as you can. It is getting late." 

When she had passed out of earshot he also 
followed homeward. This seeking of the 
Well -Beloved was, then, of the nature of a 
knife which could cut two ways. To be the 
seeker was one thing ; to be one of the 
corpses from which the ideal inhabitant had 
departed was another ; and this was what he 
had become now, in the mockery of new 
Days. 

Drawing near his own gate he smelled to- 
bacco, and could discern two figures in the 
side lane leading past Avice's door. They did 
not, however, enter her house, but strolled on- 
ward to the narrow pass conducting to Red 
King's castle and the sea. He was in momen- 
tary heaviness at the thought that they might 
be Avice with a worthless lover, but a faintly 

164 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

argumentative tone from the man informed 
him that they were the same married couple 
going homeward whom he had encountered 
on a previous occasion. 

The next day he gave the servants a half- 
holiday to get the pretty Avice into the castle 
again for a few hours, the better to observe 
her. While she was pulling down the blinds 
at sunset a whistle of peculiar quality came 
from some point on the cliffs outside the 
lawn. He observed that her color rose slight- 
ly, though she bustled about as if she had 
noticed nothing. 

Pierston suddenly suspected that she had 
not only fifteen past admirers, but a current 
one. Still, he might be mistaken. Stimu- 
lated now by ancient memories and present 
tenderness to use every effort to make her his 
wife, despite her conventional unfitness, he 
strung himself up to sift this mystery. If he 
could only win her — and how could a country 
girl refuse such an opportunity? — he could 
pack her off to school for two or three years, 
marry her, enlarge her mind by a little travel, 
and take his chance of the rest. As to her 
want of ardor for him — so sadly in contrast 
with her sainted mother's affection — a man 

165 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



twenty years older than his bride could expect 
no better, and he would be well content to put 
up with it in the pleasure of possessing one in 
whom seemed to linger as an aroma all the 
charm of his youth and his early home. 



IX 

JUXTAPOSITIONS 

It was a sad and leaden afternoon, and 
Pierston paced up the long, steep pass, or 
Street of Wells. On either side of the 
road young girls stood with pitchers at the 
fountains which bubbled there, and behind 
the houses forming the propylaea of the rock 
rose the massive forehead of the isle — crested 
at this part with its enormous ramparts as 
with a mural crown. 

As you approach the upper end of the 
street all progress seems about to be checked 
by the almost vertical face of the escarpment. 
Into it your track apparently runs point- 
blank: a confronting mass which, if it were to 
slip down, would overwhelm the whole town. 
But in a moment you find that the road, the 
old Roman highway into the peninsula, turns 
at a sharp angle when it reaches the base of 
the scrap, and ascends in the stiffest of in- 
M 167 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

clines to the right. To the left there is also 
another ascending road, modern, almost as 
steep as the first, and perfectly straight. 
This is the road to the forts. 

Pierston arrived at the forking of the ways, 
and paused for breath. Before turning to the 
right, his proper and picturesque course, he 
looked up the uninteresting left road to the 
fortifications. It was new, long, white, regu- 
lar, tapering to a vanishing point, like a les- 
son in perspective. About a quarter of the 
way up a girl was resting beside a basket of 
white linen ; and by the shape of her hat 
and the nature of her burden he recognized 
her. 

She did not see him, and, abandoning the 
right-hand course, he slowly ascended the in- 
cline she had taken. He observed that her 
attention was absorbed by something aloft. 
He followed the direction of her gaze. Above 
them towered the green -gray mountain of 
grassy stone, here levelled at the top by 
military art. The skyline was broken every 
now and then by a little peg-like object — a 
sentry-box ; and near one of these a small red 
spot kept creeping backward and forward 
monotonously against the heavy sky. 

168 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

Then he divined that she had a soldier- 
lover. 

She turned her head, saw him, and took up 
her clothes-basket to continue the ascent. 
The steepness was such that to climb it unen- 
cumbered was a breathless business ; the lin- 
en made her task a cruelty to her. " You'll 
never get to the forts with that weight," he 
said. "Give it to me." 

But she would not, and he stood still, 
watching her as she panted up the way ; for 
the moment an irradiated being, the epitome 
of a whole sex ; by the beams of his own in- 
fatuation 

..." robed in such exceeding glory 
That he beheld her not ;" 

beheld her not as she really was, as she was 
even to himself sometimes. But to the 
soldier what was she ? Smaller and smaller 
she waned up the rigid mathematical road, 
still gazing at the soldier aloft, as Pierston 
gazed at her. He could just discern sentinels 
springing up at the different coigns of vantage 
that she passed, but, seeing who she was, they 
did not intercept her ; and presently she 
crossed the drawbridge over the enormous 

169 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

chasm surrounding the forts, passed the sen- 
tries there also, and disappeared through the 
arch into the interior. Pierston could not 
see the sentry now, and there occurred to him 
the hateful idea that this scarlet rival was 
meeting and talking freely to her, the unpro- 
tected orphan girl of his sweet, original Avice; 
perhaps, relieved of duty, escorting her across 
the interior, carrying her basket, her tender 
body encircled by his arm. 

" What the devil are you staring at, as if 
you were in a trance?" 

Pierston turned his head, and there stood 
his old friend Somers — still looking the long- 
leased bachelor that he was. 

" I might say what the devil do you do 
here? if I weren't so glad to see you." 

Somers said that he had come to see what 
was detaining his friend in such an out-of-the- 
way place at that time of year, and incident- 
ally to get some fresh air into his own lungs. 
Pierston made him welcome, and they went 
towards Sylvania Castle. 

" You were staring, as far as I could see, at 
a pretty little washerwoman with a basket of 
clothes," resumed the painter. 

"Yes; it was that to you, but not to me. 

170 



A YOUNG MAN Of FORTY 

Behind the mere pretty island girl (to the 
world) is, in my eye, the Idea, in Platonic 
phraseology — the essence and epitome of all 
that is desirable in this existence, ... I am 
under a doom, Somers. Yes, I am under a 
doom. To have been always following a 
phantom whom I saw in woman after woman 
while she was at a distance, but vanishing 
away on close approach, was bad enough ; but 
now the terrible thing is that the phantom 
does not vanish, but stays to tantalize me 
even when I am near enough to see what it 
is! That girl holds me, though my eyes are 
open, and though I see that I am a fool !" 

Somers regarded the visionary look of his 
friend, which rather intensified than decreased 
as his years wore on, but made no further re- 
mark. When they reached the castle Somers 
gazed round upon the scenery, and Pierston, 
signifying the quaint little Elizabethan cot- 
tage, said, " That's where she lives." 

"What a romantic place! — and this island 
altogether. A man might love a scarecrow or 
turnip-lantern here." 

"But a woman mightn't. Scenery doesn't 
impress them, though they pretend it does. 
This girl is as fickle as — " 

171 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"You once were." 



" Exactly — from your point of view. She 
has told me so — candidly. And it hits me 
hard." 

Somers stood still in sudden thought. "Well 
— that is a strange turning of the tables !" he 
said. " But you wouldn't really marry her, 
Pierston ?" 

" I would — to-morrow. Why shouldn't I ? 
What are fame and name and society to me — 
a descendant: of wreckers and smugglers, like 
her. Besides, I know what she's made of, 
my boy, to her innermost fibre ; I know the 
perfect and pure quarry she was dug from, 
and that gives a man confidence." 

"Then you'll win." 

While they were sitting after dinner that 
evening their quiet discourse was interrupted 
by the long low whistle from the cliffs with- 
out. Somers took no notice, but Pierston 
marked it. That whistle always occurred at 
the same time in the evening when Avice was 
helping in the house. He excused himself 
for a moment to his visitor and went out 
upon the dark lawn. A crunching of feet 
upon the gravel mixed in with the articula- 

172 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

tion of the sea— steps light as if they were 
winged. And he supposed, two minutes 
later, that the mouth of some hulking fellow 
was upon hers, which he himself hardly vent- 
ured to look at, so touching was its young 
beauty. 

Hearing people about — among others a 
couple quarrelling, for there were rough as 
well as gentle people here in the island — he 
returned to the house. Next day Somers 
roamed abroad to look for scenery for a 
marine painting, and, going out to seek him, 
Pierston met Avice. 

" So you have a lover, my lady !" he said, 
severely. She admitted that it was the fact. 
" You won't stick to him," he continued. 

" I think I may this one," said she, in a 
meaning tone that he failed to fathom. " He 
deserted me once, but he won't again." 

" I suppose he's a wonderful sort of fellow." 

" He's good enough for me." 

"So handsome, no doubt." 

" Handsome enough for me." 

" So refined and respectable." 

" Refined and respectable enough for me." 

He could not disturb her equanimity, and 
let her pass. The next day was Sunday, and, 

i73 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Somers having chosen his view at the other 
end of the island, Pierston determined in the 
afternoon to see Avice's lover. He found that 
she had left her cottage stronghold, and went 
on towards the lighthouses at the Beal. Turn- 
ing back when he had reached the nearest, he 
saw on the lonely road between the quarries a 
young man evidently connected with the stone 
trade, with Avice the Second upon his arm. 

She looked prettily guilty and blushed a lit- 
tle under his glance. The man's was one of 
the typical island physiognomies — his features 
energetic and wary in their expression, and 
half covered with a close, crisp, black beard. 
Pierston fancied that out of his keen dark eyes 
there glimmered a dry sense of humor at the 
situation. 

If so, Avice must have told him of Pierston's 
symptoms of tenderness. This girl whom, for 
her dear mother's sake more than for her own 
unquestionable attractiveness, he would have 
guarded as the apple of his eye, how could she 
estimate him so flippantly? 

The mortification of having brought himself 
to this position with the antitype by his early 
slight of the type blinded him for the moment 
to what struck him a short time after. The 

174 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

man upon whose arm she hung was not a sol- 
dier. What, then, became of her entranced 
gaze at the sentinel ? She could hardly have 
transferred her affections so promptly ; or, to 
give her the benefit of his own theory, her 
Beloved could scarcely have flitted from frame 
to frame in so very brief an interval. And 
which of them had been he who whistled soft- 
ly in the dusk to her? 

Without further attempt to find Alfred 
Somers, Pierston walked homeward, moodily 
thinking that the desire to make reparation to 
the original woman by wedding and enriching 
the copy — which lent such an unprecedented 
permanence to his new love — was thwarted, 
as if by set intention of his destiny. 

At the door of the grounds about the castle 
there stood a carriage. He observed that it 
was not one of the homely flys from the un- 
der-hill town, but apparently from the fashion- 
able town across the bay. Wondering why 
the visitor had not driven in, he entered, to 
find in the drawing-room Nichola Pine-Avon. 

At his first glance upon her, fashionably 
dressed and graceful in movement, she seemed 
beautiful; at the second, when he observed 
that her face was pale and agitated, she 

175 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

seemed pathetic likewise. Altogether, she 
was now a very different figure from her who, 
sitting in her chair with such finished compos- 
ure, had snubbed him in her drawing-room in 
Hamptonshire Square. 

" You are surprised at this ? Of course you 
are," she said, in a low, pleading voice, lan- 
guidly lifting her heavy eyelids, while he was 
holding her hand. " But I couldn't help it. I 
know I have done something to offend you — 
have I not ? Oh, what can it be, that you 
have come away to this outlandish rock, to 
live with barbarians in the midst of the Lon- 
don season?" 

" You have not offended me, dear Mrs. Pine- 
Avon," he said. " How sorry I am that you 
should have supposed it ! Yet I am glad, too, 
that your fancy should have done me the good 
turn of bringing you here to see me." 

" I am staying at Budmouth-Regis," she ex- 
plained. 

" Then I did see you at a church-service 
here a little while back?" 

She blushed faintly upon her pallor, and she 
sighed. Their eyes met. " Well," she said, at 
last, " I don't know why I shouldn't show the 
virtue of candor. You know what it means. 

176 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

I was the stronger once ; now I am the weak- 
er. Whatever pain I may have given you in 
the ups and downs of our acquaintance I am 
sorry for, and would willingly repair all errors 
of the past by — being amenable to reason in 
the future." 

It was impossible that Jocelyn should not 
feel a tender impulsion towards this attractive 
and once independent woman, who from every 
worldly point of view was an excellent match 
for him — a superior match, indeed, except in 
money. He took her hand again and held it 
awhile, and a faint wave of gladness seemed 
to flow through her. But no — he could go no 
further. That island girl, in her coquettish 
Sunday frock and little hat with its bunch of 
cock's feathers, held him as by strands of 
Manila rope. He dropped Nichola's hand. 

" I am leaving Budmouth to-morrow," she 
said. " That was why I felt I must call. You 
did not know I had been there all through the 
Whitsun holidays?" 

" I did not, indeed, or I should have come 
to see you." 

" I didn't like to write. I wish I had, now!" 
" I wish you had, too, dear Mrs. Pine-Avon." 
But it was "Nichola " that she wanted to be. 

M 177 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

As they reached the landau he told her that 
he should be back in town himself again soon, 
and would call immediately. At the moment 
of his words Avice Caro, now alone, passed 
close along by the carriage on the other side 
towards her house hard at hand. She did not 
turn head or eye to the pair; they seemed to 
be in her view objects of indifference. 

Pierston became cold as a stone. The chill 
towards Nichola that the presence of the girl 
— sprite, witch, troll that she was — brought 
with it came like a doom. He knew what a 
fool he was, as he had said. But he was power- 
less in the grasp of the idealizing passion. He 
cared more for Avice's finger-tips than for Mrs. 
Pine-Avon's whole personality. 

Perhaps Nichola saw it, for she said, mourn- 
fully : " Now I have done all I could ! I felt 
that the only counterpoise to my cruelty to 
you in my drawing-room would be to come as 
a suppliant to yours." 

" It is most handsome and noble of you, my 
very dear friend !" said he, with an emotion 
of courtesy rather than of enthusiasm. 

Then adieux were spoken, and she drove 
away. But Pierston saw only the retreating 
Avice, and knew that he was helpless in her 

178 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

hands. The church of the island had risen 
near the foundations of the Pagan temple, and 
a Christian emanation from the former might 
be wrathfully torturing him through the very 
false gods to whom he had devoted himself 
both in his craft, like Demetrius of Ephesus, 
and in his heart. Perhaps divine punishment 
for his idolatries had come. 



X 

SHE FAILS TO VANISH STILL 

PlERSTON had not turned far back towards 
the castle when he was overtaken by Somers 
and the man who carried his painting lumber. 
They paced together to the door ; the man 
deposited the articles and went away, and the 
two walked up and down before entering. 

" I met an extremely interesting woman in 
the road out there," said the painter. 

" Ah, she is ! A sprite, a sylph ; Psyche in- 
deed !" 

" I was struck with her." 

" It shows how beauty will out through the 
homeliest guise." 

" Yes, it will ; though not always. And this 
case doesn't prove it, for the lady's attire was 
in the latest and most approved taste." 

" Oh, you mean the lady who was driv- 
ing? 

" Of course. What ! were you thinking of 

1 80 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

the pretty little cottage-girl outside here ? I 
did meet her, but what's she ? Very well for 
one's picture, though hardly for one's fireside. 
This lady — " 

" Is Mrs. Pine-Avon. A kind, proud wom- 
an, who'll do what people with no pride 
would not condescend to think of. She is 
leaving Budmouth to-morrow, and she drove 
across to see me. You know how things 
seemed to be going with us at one time? But 
I am no good to any woman. She's been 
very generous towards me, which I've not 
been to her. . . . She'll ultimately throw her- 
self away upon some wretch, unworthy of her, 
no doubt." 

"Do you think so?" murmured Somers. 
After a while he said, abruptly, " I'll marry 
her myself, if she'll have me. I like the look 
of her." 

M I wish you would, Alfred, or rather could. 
She has long had an idea of slipping out of 
the world of fashion into the world of art. 
She is a woman of individuality and earnest 
instincts. I am in real trouble about her. I 
won't say she can be won — it would be un- 
generous of me to say that. But try. I can 
bring you together easily." 

181 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"I'll marry her, if she's willing !" With 
the phlegmatic dogmatism that was part of 
him, Somers added, " When you have decid- 
ed to marry, take the first nice woman you 
meet. They are all alike." 

"Well — you don't know her yet," replied 
Jocelyn, who could give praise where he could 
not give love. 

" But you do, and I'll take her on the 
strength of your judgment. Is she really 
handsome? — I had but the merest glance. 
But I know she is, or she wouldn't have 
caught your discriminating eye." 

" You may take my word for it ; she looks 
as well at hand as afar." 

" What color are her eyes?" 

"Her eyes? I don't go much into color, 
being professionally sworn to form. But, let 
me see — gray ; and her hair rather light than 
dark brown." 

" I wanted something darker," said Somers, 
airily. "There are so many fair models among 
native Englishwomen. Still, blondes are use- 
ful property ! . . . Well, well ; this is flippancy. 
But I liked the look of her." 

Somers had gone back to town. It was a 

182 






A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

wet day on the little peninsula, but Pierston 
walked out as far as the garden-house of his 
hired castle, where he sat down and smoked. 
This erection being on the boundary-wall of 
his property, his ear could now and then catch 
the tones of Avice's voice from her open- 
doored cottage in the lane which skirted his 
fence ; and he noticed that there were no 
modulations in it. He knew why that was. 
She wished to go out, and could not. He 
had observed before that when she was plan- 
ning an outing a particular note would come 
into her voice during the preceding hours — a 
dove's roundness of sound ; no doubt the ef- 
fect upon her voice of her thoughts of her 
lover, or lovers. Yet the latter it could not 
be. She was pure and single-hearted ; half an 
eye could see that. Whence, then, the two 
men ? Possibly the quarrier was a relation. 

There seemed reason in this when, going 
out into the lane, he encountered one of the 
red-jackets he had been thinking of. Soldiers 
were seldom seen in this outer part of the 
isle; their beat from the forts, when on pleas- 
ure, was in the opposite direction, and this 
man must have had a special reason for com- 
ing hither. Pierston surveyed him. lie was 
N 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

a round-faced, good-humored fellow to look 
at, having two little pieces of mustache on 
his upper lip, like a pair of minnows ram- 
pant, and small black eyes, over which the 
Glengarry cap straddled flat. It was a hate- 
ful idea that her tender cheek should be 
kissed by the lips of this heavy young man, 
who had never been sublimed by a single bat- 
tle, even with defenceless savages. 

The soldier went before her house, looked 
at the door, and moved on down the crooked 
way to the cliffs, where there was a path back 
to the forts. But he did not adopt it, return- 
ing by the way he had come. This showed 
his wish to pass the house again. She gave 
no sign, however, and the soldier disappeared. 

Pierston could not be satisfied that Avice 
was in the house, and he crossed over to the 
front of her little freehold and tapped at the 
door, which stood ajar. 

Nobody came ; hearing a slight movement 
within, he crossed the threshold. Avice was 
there alone, sitting on a low stool in a dark 
corner, as though she wished to be unob- 
served by any casual passer-by. She looked 
up at him without emotion or apparent sur- 
prise ; but he could then see that she was 

184 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

crying. The view, for the first time, of dis- 
tress in an unprotected young girl, towards 
whom he felt drawn by ties of extraordinary 
delicacy and tenderness, moved Pierston be- 
yond measure. He entered without cere- 
mony. 

" Avice, my dear girl I" he said. " Some- 
thing is the matter I" 

She looked assent, and he went on : " Now 
tell me all about it. Perhaps I can help you. 
Come, tell me." 

"I can't," she murmured. "Gammer Stock- 
wool is upstairs, and she'll hear !" Mrs. Stock- 
wool was the old woman who had come to 
live with the girl for company since her 
mother's death. 

" Then come into my garden opposite. 
There we shall be quite private." 

She rose, put on her hat, and accompanied 
him to the door. Here she asked him if the 
lane were empty, and on his assuring her that 
it was she crossed over and entered with him 
through the garden-wall. 

The place was a shady and secluded one, 

though through the boughs the sea could be 

n quite near at hand, its moanings being 

distinctly audible. A water-drop from a tree 

185 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

fell here and there, but the rain was not 
enough to hurt them. 

" Now let me hear it," he said, soothingly. 
" You may tell me with the greatest freedom. 
I was a friend of your mother's, you know. 
That is, I knew her; and I'll be a friend of 
yours." 

The statement was risky, if he wished her 
not to suspect him of being her mother's false 
one. But that lover's name appeared to be 
unknown to the present Avice. 

" I can't tell you, sir," she replied, unwilling- 
ly ; " except that it has to do with my own 
changeableness. The rest is the secret of 
somebody else." 

" I am sorry for that," said he. 

" I am getting to care for one I ought not 
to think of, and it means ruin. I ought to get 
away !" 

" You mean from the island ?" 

"Yes." 

Pierston reflected. His presence in London 
had been desired for some time ; yet he had 
delayed going because of his new solicitudes 
here. But to go and take her with him would 
afford him opportunity of watching over her, 
tending her mind, and developing it ; while it 

J86 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

might remove her from some looming danger. 
It was a somewhat awkward guardianship for 
him, as a lonely man, to carry out ; still, it 
could be done. He asked her abruptly if she 
would really like to go away for a while. 

" I like best to stay here," she answered. 
" Still, I should not mind going somewhere, 
because I think I ought to." 

" Would you like London ?" 

Avice's face lost its weeping shape. " How 
could that be ?" she said. 

" I have been thinking that you could come 
to my house and make yourself useful in some 
way. I rent just now one of those new places 
called flats, which you may have heard of, and 
I have a studio at the back." 

" I haven't heard of 'em," she said, without 
interest. 

"Well, I have two servants there, and, as 
my man has a holiday, you can help them for 
a month or two." 

"Would polishing furniture be any good? 
I can do that." 

" I haven't much furniture that requires 
polishing. Hut you can clear away plaster 
and clay messes in the studio, and chippings 
of stone, and help me in modelling, and dust 

187 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

all my Venus failures, and hands and heads 
and feet and bones and other objects." 

She was startled, yet attracted by the novel- 
ty of the proposal. 

" Only for a time," she said. 

" Only for a time. As short as you like, and 
as long." 

The deliberate manner in which, after the 
first surprise, Avice discussed the arrange- 
ments that he suggested might have told him 
how far was any feeling for himself, beyond 
friendship, and possibly gratitude, from agitat- 
ing her breast. Yet there was nothing ex- 
travagant in the discrepancy between their 
ages, and he hoped, after shaping her to him- 
self, to win her. What had grieved her to 
tears she would not more particularly tell. 

She had naturally not much need of prepa- 
ration, but she made even less preparation 
than he would have expected her to require. 
She seemed eager to be off immediately, and 
not a soul was to know of her departure. 
Why, if she were in love and at first averse to 
leave the island, she should be so precipitate 
now he failed to understand. 

But he took great care to compromise in no 
way a girl in whom his interest was as pro- 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

tective as it was passionate. He accordingly 
left her to get out of the island alone, await- 
ing her at a station a few miles up the railway, 
where, discovering himself to her through the 
carriage window, he entered the next compart- 
ment, his frame pervaded by a glow which was 
almost joy at having for the first time in his 
charge one who inherited the flesh and bore 
the name so early associated with his own, and 
at the prospect of putting things right which 
had been wrong through many years. 



XI 

THE IMAGE PERSISTS 

It was dark when the four-wheeled cab 
wherein he had brought Avice from the sta- 
tion stood at the entrance to the pile of flats 
of which Pierston occupied one floor — rarer 
then as residences in London than they are 
now. Leaving Avice to alight and get the 
luggage taken in by the porter, Pierston went 
up-stairs. To his surprise his floor was silent, 
and, on entering with a latch-key, the rooms 
were all in darkness. He descended to the 
hall, where Avice was standing helpless beside 
the luggage, while the porter was outside with 
the cabman. 

" Do you know what has become of my ser- 
vants?" asked Jocelyn. 

"What — and ain't they there, saur? Ah, 
then, my belief is that what I suspected is 
thrue ! You didn't leave your wine-cellar un- 
locked, did you, saur, by no mistake?" 

190 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

Pierston considered. He thought he might 
have left the key with his elder servant, whom 
he had believed he could trust, especially as 
the cellar was not well stocked. 

"Ah, then, it was so! She's been very 
queer, saur, this last week or two. Oh yes, 
sending messages down the spakin'-tube 
which were like madness itself, and ordering 
us this and that, till we would take no notice 
at all. I see them both go out last night, and 
possibly they went for a holiday, not expect- 
ing ye, or maybe for good ! Shure, if ye'd 
written, saur, I'd ha' got the place ready, ye 
being out of a man, too, though it's not me 
duty at all !" 

When Pierston got to his floor again he 
found that the cellar door was open ; some 
bottles were standing empty that had been 
full, and many abstracted altogether. All 
other articles in the house, however, appeared 
to be intact. His letter to his housekeeper 
lay in the box as the postman had left it. 

By this time the luggage had been sent up 
in the lift ; and Avice, like so much more lug- 
,e, stood at the door, the hall-porter behind 
offering his assistance. 

" Come here, Avice," said the sculptor. 

191 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"What shall we do now? Here's a pretty- 
state of affairs!" 

Avice could suggest nothing, till she was 
struck with the bright thought that she 
should light a fire. 

" Light a fire ? Ah, yes. ... I wonder if we 
could manage. This is an odd coincidence — 
and awkward !" he murmured. " Very well, 
light a fire." 

" Is this the kitchen, sir, all mixed up with 
the parlors ?" 

"Yes." 

"Then I think I can do all that's wanted 
here for a bit ; at any rate, till you can get 
help, sir. At least, I could if I could find 
the fuel-house. 'Tis no such big place as I 
thought !" 

"That's right — take courage!" said he, with 
a tender smile. " Now, I'll dine out this even- 
ing, and leave the place for you to arrange as 
best you can with the help of the porter's wife 
down-stairs." 

This Pierston accordingly did, and so their 
common residence began. Feeling more and 
more strongly that some danger awaited her 
in her native island, he determined not to send 
her back till the lover or lovers who seemed 

192 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

to trouble her should have cooled off. He 
was quite willing to take the risk of his action 
thus far in his solicitous regard for her. 

It was a dual solitude, indeed; for, though 
Pierston and Avice were the only two people 
in the flat, they did not keep each other com- 
pany, the former being as scrupulously fearful 
of going near her now that he had the oppor- 
tunity as he had been prompt to seek her 
when he had none. They lived in silence, his 
messages to her being frequently written on 
scraps of paper deposited where she could see 
them. It was not without a pang that he noted 
her unconsciousness of their isolated position 
— a position to which, had she experienced 
any reciprocity of sentiment, she would read- 
ily have been alive. 

Considering that, though not profound, she 
was hardly a matter-of-fact girl, as that phrase 
is commonly understood, she was exasperating 
in the matter-of-fact quality of her responses 
to the friendly remarks which would escape 
him in spite of himself, as well as in her gen- 
eral conduct. Whenever he formed some culi- 
nary excuse for walking across the few yards 
of tessellated hall which separated his room 
n 193 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

from the kitchen and spoke through the door- 
way to her, she answered, " Yes, sir," or " No, 
sir," without turning her eyes from the partic- 
ular work that she was engaged in. 

In the usual course, he would have obtained 
a couple of properly qualified servants immedi- 
ately ; but he lived on with the one, or rather 
the less than one, that this cottage-girl af- 
forded. It had been his almost invariable cus- 
tom to dine at one of his clubs. Now he sat 
at home over the miserable chop or steak, to 
which he limited himself, in dread lest she 
should complain of there being too much work 
for one person and demand to be sent home. 
A charwoman came every two or three days, 
effecting an extraordinary consumption of food 
and alcoholic liquids : yet it was not for this 
that Pierston dreaded her presence, but lest, in 
conversing with Avice, she should open the 
girl's eyes to the oddity of her situation. Avice 
could see for herself that there must have been 
two or three servants in the flat during his for- 
mer residence there; but his reasons for doing 
without them seemed never to strike her. 

His intention had been to keep her occupied 
exclusively at the studio, but accident had 
modified this. However, he sent her round 

194 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

one morning, and, entering himself shortly 
after, found her engaged in wiping the layers 
of dust from the casts and models. 

The color of the dust never ceased to amaze 
her. " It is like the hold of a Budmouth col- 
lier," she said, "and the beautiful faces of these 
clay people are quite spoiled by it." 

" I suppose you'll marry, some day, Avice ?" 
remarked Pierston,as he regarded her thought- 
fully. 

" Some do and some don't," she said, with a 
reserved smile, still attending to the casts. 

" You are very offhand," said he. 

She archly weighed that remark without 
further speech. It was tantalizing conduct in 
the face of his instinct to cherish her ; espe- 
cially when he regarded the charm of her bend- 
ing profile, the well-characterized though softly 
lined nose, the round chin, with, as it were, a 
second leap in its curve to the throat, and the 
sweep of the eyelashes over the rosy cheek 
during the sedulously lowered glance. How 
futilcly he had labored to express the character 
of that face in clay, and, while catching it in 
substance, had yet lost something that was es- 

ntial ! 

That evening, at dusk, in the stress of writing 

»95 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

letters, he sent her out for stamps. She had 
been absent some quarter of an hour when, sud- 
denly drawing himself up from over his writing- 
table, it flashed upon him that he had absolutely 
forgotten her total ignorance of London. 

The head post-office, to which he had sent 
her because it was late, was two or three streets 
off, and he had made his request in the most 
general manner, which she had acceded to 
with alacrity enough. How could he have 
done such an unreflecting thing? 

Pierston went to the window. It was about 
nine o'clock, and owing to her absence the 
blinds were not down. He opened the case- 
ment and stepped out upon the balcony. The 
green shade of his lamp screened its rays from 
the gloom without. Over the opposite square 
the moon hung, and to the right there stretched 
a long street, filled with a diminishing array of 
lamps, some single, some in clusters, among 
them an occasional blue or red one. From a 
corner came the notes of a piano-organ strum- 
ming out a stirring march of Rossini's. The 
shadowy black figures of pedestrians moved 
up, down, and across the embrowned roadway. 
Above the roofs was a bank of livid mist, and 
higher a greenish-blue sky, in which stars were 

X96 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

visible, though its lower part was still pale with 
daylight, against which rose chimney-pots in 
the form of elbows, prongs, and fists. 

From the whole scene proceeded a ground 
rumble, miles in extent, upon which individual 
rattles, voices, a tin whistle, the bark of a dog, 
rode like bubbles on a sea. The whole noise 
impressed him with the sense that no one in 
its enormous mass ever required rest. 

In this illimitable ocean of humanity there 
was a unit of existence, his Avice, wandering 
alone. 

Pierston looked at his watch. She had been 
gone half an hour. It was impossible to dis- 
tinguish her at this distance, even if she ap- 
proached. He came inside, and, putting on his 
hat, determined to go out and seek her. He 
reached the end of the street, and there was 
nothing of her to be seen. She had the option 
of two or three routes from this point to the 
post-office; yet he plunged at random into one, 
till he reached the office, to find it quite de- 
serted. Almost distracted now by his anxiety 
for her, he retreated as rapidly as he had come, 
regaining home only to find that she had not 
returned. 

He recollected telling her that if she should 

197 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

ever lose her way she must call a cab and drive 
home. It occurred to him that this was what 
she would do now. He again went out upon 
the balcony; the dignified street in which he 
lived was almost vacant, and the lamps stood 
like placed sentinels awaiting some procession 
which tarried long. At a point under him 
where the road was torn up there stood a red 
light, and at the corner two men were talking 
in leisurely repose, as if sunning themselves at 
noonday. Lovers of a feline disposition, who 
were never seen by daylight, joked and darted 
at each other in and out of area gates. 

His attention was fixed on the cabs, and he 
held his breath as the hollow clap of each 
horse's hoofs drew near the front of the house 
only to go onward into the square. The two 
lamps of each vehicle afar dilated with its near 
approach, and seemed to swerve towards him. 
It was Avice surely ? No, it passed by. 

Almost frantic, he again descended and let 
himself out of the house, moving towards a 
more central part, where the roar still con- 
tinued. Before emerging into the noisy thor- 
oughfare he observed a small figure approach- 
ing leisurely along the opposite side, and hast- 
ened across to find it was she. 

198 



XII 

A GRILLE DESCENDS BETWEEN 

" Oh, Avice !" he cried, with the tenderly 
subdued scolding of a mother. " What is this 
you have done to alarm me so ?" 

She seemed unconscious of having done any- 
thing, and was altogether surprised at his 
anxiety. In his relief he did not speak further 
till he asked her suddenly if she would take 
his arm, since she must be tired. 

" Oh no, sir," she assured him, " I am not a 
bit tired, and I don't require any help at all, 
thank you!" 

They went up-stairs without using the lift, 
and he let her and himself in with his latch-key. 
She entered the kitchen, and he, following, sat 
down in a chair there. 

" Where have you been?" he said, with aL- 
most angered concern on his face. " You ought 
not to have been absent more than ten min- 
utes." 

o 199 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" I knew there was nothing for me to do, 
and thought I should like to see a little of 
London," she replied, naively. " So when I 
had got the stamps I went on into the fashion- 
able streets, where folks are all walking about 
just as if it were daytime ! 'Twas for all the 
world like coming home by night from Mar- 
tinmas Fair at the Street o' Wells, only more 
genteel!" 

" Oh, Avice, Avice, you must not go out like 
this! Don't you know that I am responsible 
for your safety? I am your — well, guardian, 
in fact, and am bound by law and morals, and 
I don't know what-all, to deliver you up to 
your native island without a scratch or blem- 
ish. And yet you indulge in such a mid- 
night vagary as this !" 

" But I am sure, sir, the people in the street 
were more respectable than they are anywhere 
at home! They were dressed in the latest 
fashion, and would have scorned to do me any 
harm ; and as to their love-making, I never 
heard anything so polite before." 

"Well, you must not do it again. I'll tell 

you some day why. What's that you have in 

your hand?" 

"A mouse-trap. There are lots of mice in 

200 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

this kitchen — sooty mice, not clean like ours — 
and I thought I'd try to catch them. That 
was what I went so far to buy, as there were 
no shops open just about here. I'll set it now." 

She proceeded at once to do so, and Pier- 
ston remained in his seat regarding the opera- 
tion which seemed entirely to engross her. 
It was extraordinary, indeed, to observe how 
she wilfully limited her interests ; with what 
content she received the ordinary things that 
life offered, and persistently refused to behold 
what an infinitely extended life lay open to 
her through him. If she had only said the 
word he would have got a license and married 
her the next morning. Was it possible that 
she did not perceive this tendency in him ? 
She could hardly be a woman if she did not ; 
and in her airy, elusive, offhand demeanor she 
was very much of a woman indeed. 

" It only holds one mouse," he said, absently. 

" But I shall hear it throw in the night, and 
set it again." 

lie sighed, and left her to her own resources 

and retired to rest, though he felt no tendency 

to sleep. At sonic small hour of the darkness, 

owing, possibly, to some intervening door being 

left open, h trd the mouse -trap click. 

20 1 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Another light sleeper must have heard it too, 
for almost immediately after the pit-pat of 
naked feet, accompanied by the brushing of 
drapery, was audible along the passage tow- 
ards the kitchen. After her absence in that 
apartment long enougn to reset the trap, he 
was startled by a scream from the same quar- 
ter. Pierston sprang out of bed, jumped into 
his dressing-gown, and hastened in the direc- 
tion of the cry. 

Avice, barefooted and wrapped in a shawl, 
was standing on a chair ; the mouse-trap lay on 
the floor, the mouse running round and round 
in its neighborhood. 

" I was trying to take en out," said she, ex- 
citedly, " and he got away from me !" 

Pierston secured the mouse while she re- 
mained standing on the chair. Then, having 
set the trap anew, his feeling burst out, petu- 
lantly : 

" A girl like you to throw yourself away 
upon such a commonplace fellow as that quar- 
ryman ! Why do you do it ?" 

Her mind was so intently fixed upon the 
matter in hand that it was some moments be- 
fore she caught his irrelevant subject. " Be- 
cause I am a foolish girl," she said, quietly. 

202 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

" What ! Don't you love him ?" said Joce- 
lyn, with a surprised stare up at her as she 
stood, in her concern appearing the very Avice 
who had kissed him twenty years earlier. 

" It is not much use to talk about that," 
said she. 

"Then is it the soldier?" 

" Yes, though I have never spoken to him." 

" Never spoken to the soldier?" 

" Never." 

"Has either one treated you badly — de- 
ceived you?" 

" No. Certainly not." 

" Well, I can't make you out ; and I don't 
wish to know more than you choose to tell 
me. Come, Avice, why not tell me exactly 
how things are ?" 

"Not now, sir!" she said, her pretty pink 
face and brown eyes turned in simple appeal 
to him from her pedestal. " I will tell you all 
to-morrow ; an' that I will !" 

He retreated to his own room and lay down 
meditating. Some quarter of an hour after 
she had retreated to hers the mouse - trap 
clicked again, ami Pierston raised himself on 
his elbow to listen. The place was so still and 
the jerry-built door-panels so thin that he could 

203 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

hear the mouse jumping about inside the wires 
of the trap. But he heard no footstep this 
time. As he was wakeful and restless he again 
arose, proceeded to the kitchen with a light, 
and, removing the mouse, reset the trap. Re- 
turning he listened once more. He could see 
in the far distance the door of Avice's room ; 
but that thoughtful housewife had not heard 
the second capture. From the room came a 
soft breathing like that of an infant. 

He entered his own chamber and reclined 
himself gloomily enough. Her lack of all 
consciousness of him, the aspect of the de- 
serted kitchen, the cold grate, impressed him 
with a deeper sense of loneliness than he had 
ever felt before. 

Foolish he was, indeed, to be so devoted to 
this young woman. Her defencelessness, her 
freedom from the least thought that there 
lurked a danger in their propinquity, were in 
fact secondary safeguards, not much less strong 
than that of her being her mother's image, 
against risk to her from him. Yet it was out 
of this that his depression came. 

At sight of her the next morning Pierston 
felt that he must put an end to such a state of 
things. He sent Avice off to the studio, wrote 

204 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

to an agent for a couple of servants, and then 
went round to his work. Avice was busy 
righting all that she was allowed to touch. It 
was the girl's delight to be occupied among 
the models and casts, which for the first time 
she regarded with the wistful interest of a soul 
struggling to receive ideas of beauty vaguely 
discerned yet ever eluding her. That bright- 
ness in her mother's mind which might have 
descended to the second Avice with the ma- 
ternal face and form had been dimmed by ad- 
mixture with the mediocrity of her father's; 
and by one who remembered, like Pierston, the 
dual organization, the opposites could be often 
seen wrestling internally. 

They were alone in the studio, and his feel- 
ings found vent. Putting his arms round her 
he said, " My darling, sweet little Avice ! I 
want to ask you something — surely you guess 
what ? I want you to know this : will you be 
married to me, and live here with me always 
and ever ?" 

"Oh, Mr. Pierston, what nonsense!" 

"Nonsense?" said he, shrinking somewhat. 

"Yes, sir." 

" Well, why ? Am I too old ? Surely there's 
no serious difference?" 

205 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" Oh no — I should not mind that if it came 
to marrying. The difference is not much for 
husband and wife, though it is rather much for 
keeping company." 

She struggled to get free, and when in the 
movement she knocked down the Empress 
Faustina's head he did not try to retain her. 
He saw that she was not only surprised, but a 
little alarmed. 

" You haven't said why it is nonsense !" he 
remarked, tartly. 

" Why, I didn't know you was thinking of 
me like that. I hadn't any thought of it. 
And all alone here ! What shall I do?" 

" Say yes, my pretty Avice! We'll then go 
out and be married at once, and nobody be 
any the wiser." 

She shook her head. " I couldn't, sir." 

" It would be well for you. You don't like 
me, perhaps?" 

"Yes, I do — very much. But not in that 
sort of way — quite. Still, I might have got to 
love you in time, if — " 

" Well, then, try," he said, warmly. "Your 
mother did !" 

No sooner had the words slipped out than 
Pierston would have recalled them. He had 

206 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

felt in a moment that they jeopardized his 
cause. 

" Mother loved you ?" said Avice, incredu- 
lously gazing at him. 
"Yes," he murmured. 

"You were not her false young man, sure- 
ly? That one who — " 

" Yes, yes ! Say no more about it." 
" Who ran away from her?" 
"Almost." 

" Then I can never, never like you again ! 
I didn't know it was a gentleman — I — I 
thought — " 

" It wasn't a gentleman, then." 
" Oh, sir, please go away ! I can't bear the 
sight of 'ee at this moment ! Perhaps I shall 
get to — to like you as I did; but — " 

" No ; I'm d — d if I'll go away !" said Pier- 
ston, thoroughly irritated. " I have been can- 
did with you ; you ought to be the same with 
me!" 

" What do you want me to tell?" 
" Enough to make it clear to me why you 
don't accept this offer. Everything you have 
said yet is a reason for the reverse. Now, my 
dear, I am not angry." 

" Yes, you arc." 

207 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" No, I'm not. Now, what is your reason ?" 

"The name of it is Isaac Pierston, down 
home." 

"How?" 

" I mean he courted me, and led me on to 
island custom, and then I went to chapel one 
morning and married him in secret, because 
mother didn't care about him ; and I didn't 
either by that time. And then he quarrelled 
with me ; and just before you and I came to 
London he went away to Guernsey. Then I 
saw a soldier; I never knew his name, but I 
fell in love with him because I am so quick at 
that ! Still, as it was wrong, I tried not to 
think of him, and wouldn't look at him when 
he passed. But it made me cry very much 
that I mustn't. I was then very miserable, 
and you asked me to come to London. I 
didn't care what I did with myself, and I 
came." 

" Heaven above us 1" said Pierston, his pale 
and distressed face showing with what a shock 
this announcement had come. " Why have 
you done such extraordinary things? Or, 
rather, why didn't you tell me of this before ? 
Then, at the present moment you are the wife 
of a man who is in Guernsey, whom you do 

208 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

not love at all, but instead of him love a sol- 
dier whom you have never spoken to, while I 
have nearly brought scandal upon us both by 
your letting me love you. Really, you are a 
very wicked woman!" 

"No, I am not!" she pouted. 
Still, Avice looked pale and rather fright- 
ened, and did not lift her eyes from the floor. 
" I said it was nonsense in you to want to 
have me !" she went on, " and even if I hadn't 
been married to that horrid Isaac Pierston I 
couldn't have married you after you told me 
that you was the man who ran away from my 
mother." 

" I have paid the penalty !" he said, sadly. 
" Men of my sort always get the worst of it 
somehow. Now, Avice — I'll call you dear 
Avice for your mother's sake and not for your 
own — I must see what I can do to help you 
out of the difficulty that unquestionably you 
arc in. Why can't you love your husband, 
now you have married him ?" 

Avice looked aside at the statuary as if the 
subtleties of her organization were not very 
y to define. 

u Was he that black-bearded typical local 
character I saw you walking with one Sun- 
o 209 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

day? The same surname as mine; though, 
of course, you don't notice that in a place 
where there are only half a dozen surnames?" 

" Yes, that was Ike. It was that evening we 
disagreed. He scolded me again, and I an- 
swered him, and the next day he went away." 

"Well, as I say, I must consider what it will 
be best to do for you in this. The first thing, 
it seems to me, will be to get your husband 
home." 

She impatiently shrugged her shoulders. 
" I don't like him !" 

" Then why did you marry him ?" 

" I was obliged to, after we'd proved each 
other." 

"You shouldn't have thought of such a 
thing. It is ridiculous, and out of date nowa- 
days." 

"Ah, he's so old-fashioned in his notions 
that he doesn't think like that. However, 
he's gone." 

" Ah — it is only a tiff between you, I dare 
say. I'll start him in business if he'll come. 
. . . Is the cottage at home still in your 
hands?" 

"Yes, it is my freehold. Gammer Stock- 
wool is taking care o' it for me." 

2IO 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

" Good. And back there you go straight- 
way, my pretty madam, and wait till your 
husband comes to make it up with you." 

" I won't go ! I don't want him to come !" 
she sobbed. I want to stay here, or anywhere, 
except where he can come !" 

" You will get over that. Now go back to 
the flat, there's a dear Avice, and be ready in 
one hour, waiting in the hall for me." 

" I don't want to !" 

" But I say you shall !" 

She found it was no use to disobey. Pre- 
cisely at the moment appointed he met her 
there himself, burdened only with a valise 
and umbrella, she with a box and other things. 
Directing the porter to put Avice and her 
belongings into a four-wheeled cab for the 
railway station, he walked out of the door, 
and kept looking behind till he saw the cab 
approaching. He then entered beside the 
astonished girl, and onward they went to- 
gether. 

They sat opposite each other in an empty 

compartment, and the tedious railway journey 

m. Regarding her closely now by the 

light of her revelation he wondered at himself 

for never divining her secret. Whenever he 

21 I 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

looked at her the girl's eyes grew rebellious, 
and at last she wept. 

" I don't want to go to him !" she sobbed, in 
a repressed voice. 

Pierston was almost as much distressed as 
she. "Why did you put yourself and me in 
such a position?" he said, bitterly. " It is no 
use to regret it now ! And I can't say that I 
do. It affords me a way out of a trying posi- 
tion. Even if you had not been married to 
him you would not have married me !" 

" Yes, I would, sir." 

" What ! You would ? You said you 
wouldn't not long ago." 

" I like you better now ! I like you more 
and more!" 

Pierston sighed, for emotionally he was not 
much older than she. That hitch in his devel- 
opment, rendering him the most lopsided of 
God's creatures, was his standing misfortune. 
A proposal to her which crossed his mind was 
dismissed as disloyalty, particularly to an inex- 
perienced fellow-islander and one who was by 
race and traditions almost a kinswoman. 

Little more passed between the twain on 
that wretched, never-to-be-forgotten day. 
Aphrodite, Ashtaroth, Freyja, or whoever the 

212 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

love -queen of his isle might have been, was 
punishing him sharply, as she knew but too 
well how to punish her votaries when they 
reverted from the ephemeral to the stable 
mood. When was it to end — this curse of 
his heart not aging while his frame moved 
naturally onward ? Perhaps only with life. 

His first act the day after depositing her in 
her own house was to go to the chapel where, 
by her statement, the marriage had been sol- 
emnized, and make sure of the fact. Perhaps 
he felt an illogical hope that she might be 
free, even then, in the tarnished condition 
which such freedom would have involved. 
However, there stood the words distinctly : 
Isaac Pierston, Ann Avice Caro, son and 
daughter of So-and-so, married on such a day, 
signed by the contracting parties, the offici- 
ating minister, and the two witnesses. 



XIII 

SHE IS ENSHROUDED FROM SIGHT 

ONE evening in early winter, when the air 
was dry and gusty, the dark little lane which 
divided the grounds of Sylvania Castle from 
the cottage of Avice, and led down to the ad- 
joining ruin of Red King's castle, was paced 
by a solitary man. The cottage was the centre 
of his beat ; its western limit being the gates 
of the former residence, its eastern the draw- 
bridge of the ruin. The few other cottages 
thereabout — all as if carved from the solid 
rock — were in darkness, but from the upper 
window of Avice's tiny freehold glimmered a 
light. Its rays were repeated from the far- 
distant sea by the light-ship lying moored over 
the mysterious Shambles quicksand, which 
brought tamelessness and domesticity into due 
position as balanced opposites. 

The sea moaned — more than moaned — 
among the boulders below the ruins, a throe 

214 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

of its tide being timed to regular intervals. 
These sounds were accompanied by an equally 
periodic moan from the interior of the cottage 
chamber ; so that the articulate heave of wa- 
ter and the articulate heave of life seemed 
but differing utterances of the self-same trou- 
bled terrestrial Being — which in one sense 
they were. 

Pierston — for the man in the lane was he — 
would look from light-ship to cottage window ; 
then back again, as he waited there between 
the travail of the sea without and the travail 
of the woman within. Soon an infant's wail 
of the very feeblest was also audible in the 
house. He started from his easy pacing and 
went again westward, standing at the elbow 
of the lane a long time. Then the peace of 
the sleeping village which lay that way was 
broken by light wheels and the trot of a horse. 
Pierston went back to the cottage gate and 
awaited the arrival of the vehicle. 

It was a light cart, and a man jumped down 
as it stopped. He was in a broad -brimmed 
hat, under which no more of him could be 
perceived than that he wore a black beard 
clipped like a yew fence — a typical aspect in 

the island. 

' 215 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" You are Avice's husband ?" asked the 
sculptor, quickly. 

The man replied that he was, in the local 
accent. " I've just come in by to-day's boat," 
he added. " I couldn't git here avore. I had 
contracted for the job at Peter-Port, and had 
to see to't to the end." 

"Well," said Pierston, "your coming means 
that you are willing to make it up with her?" 

"Ay, I don't know but I be," said the 
man. " Mid so well do that as anything 
else !" 

" If you do, thoroughly, a good business in 
your old line awaits you here in the island." 

" Wi' all my heart, then," said the man. 
His voice was energetic, and, though slightly 
touchy, it showed, on the whole, a disposition 
to set things right. 

The driver of the trap was paid off, and 
Jocelyn and Isaac Pierston — undoubtedly sci- 
ons of a common stock in this isle of inter- 
marriages, though they had no proof of it — 
entered the house. Nobody was in the 
ground -floor room, in the centre of which 
stood a square table, in the centre of the ta- 
ble a little wool mat, and in the centre of the 
mat a lamp, the apartment having the appear- 

216 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

ance of being rigidly swept and set in order 
for an event of interest. 

The woman who lived in the house with 
Avice now came down-stairs, and to the inquiry 
of the comers she replied that matters were 
progressing favorably, but that nobody could 
be allowed to go up-stairs just then. After 
placing chairs and viands for them she re- 
treated, and they sat down, the lamp between 
them — the lover of the sufferer above, who had 
no right to her, and the man who had every 
right to her, but did not love her. Engag- 
ing in desultory and fragmentary conversa- 
tion, they listened to the trampling of feet on 
the floor-boards overhead — Pierston full of anx- 
iety and attentiveness, Ike awaiting the course 
of nature calmly. 

Soon they heard the feeble bleats repeated, 
and then the local practitioner descended and 
entered the room. 

" How is she now?" said Pierston, the more 
taciturn Ike looking up with him for the an- 
swer that he felt would serve for two as well as 
for one. 

" Doing well — remarkably well," replied the 
professional gentleman, with a manner of hav- 
ing said it in other places; and, his vehicle not 

217 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

being at the door, he sat down and shared 
some refreshment with the others. When he 
had departed Mrs. Stockwool again stepped 
down and informed them that Ike's presence 
had been made known to his wife. 

The truant quarrier seemed rather inclined 
to stay where he was and finish the mug of 
ale, but Pierston quickened him, and he as- 
cended the staircase. As soon as the lower 
room was empty Pierston leaned with his el- 
bows on the table and covered his face with 
his hands. 

Ike was absent no great time. Descending 
with a proprietary mien that had been lacking 
before, he invited Jocelyn to ascend likewise, 
since she had stated that she would like to see 
him. Jocelyn went up the crooked old steps, 
the husband remaining below. 

Avice, though white as the sheets, looked 
brighter and happier than he had expected to 
find her, and was apparently very much forti- 
fied by the pink little lump at her side. She 
held out her hand to him. 

" I just wanted to tell 'ee," she said, striving 
against her feebleness, " I thought it would be 
no harm to see you, though 'tis rather soon — 
to tell 'ee how very much I thank you for get- 

218 



A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY 

ting me settled again with Ike. He is very 
glad to come home again, too, he says. Yes, 
you've done a good many kind things for me, 
sir. 

Whether she were really glad, or whether the 
words were expressed as a matter of duty, 
Pierston did not attempt to learn. 

He merely said that he valued her thanks. 
" Now, Avice," he added, tenderly, " I resign 
my guardianship of you. I hope to see your 
husband in a sound little business here in a very 
short time." 

" I hope so — for baby's sake," she said, with 
a bright sigh. " Would you — like to see her, 
sir? 

11 The baby? Oh yes . . . your baby ! You 
must christen her Avice." 

" Yes — so I will!" she murmured, readily, 
and disclosed the infant with some timidity. 
" I hope you forgive me, sir, for concealing my 
thoughtless marriage !" 

" If you forgive me for making love to 

»» 
you. 

11 Yes. How were you to know ! I wish — " 

Pierston bade her good-bye, kissing her 

hand; turned from her and the incipient being, 

whom he was to meet again under very altered 

2Kj 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

conditions, and left the bedchamber with a 
tear in his eye. 

" Here endeth that dream !" said he. 

Hymen, in secret or overt guise, seemed to 
haunt Pierston just at this time with undigni- 
fied mockery, which savored rather of Harle- 
quin than of the torch-bearer. Two days after 
parting in a lone island from the girl he had 
so disinterestedly loved he met in Piccadilly 
his friend Somers, wonderfully spruced up, and 
hastening along with a preoccupied face. 

"My dear fellow," said Somers, "what do 
you think ! I was charged not to tell you, 
but, hang it ! I may just as well make a clean 
breast of it now as later!" 

" What — you are not going to . . ." began 
Pierston, with divination. 

" Yes. What I said on impulse six months 
back I am about to carry out in cold blood. 
Nichola and I began in jest and ended in 
earnest. We are going to take one another 
next month for good and all." 



PART THIRD 
A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 



11 In me thou seest the glowing of such fire, 
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie 
As the death-bed whereon it must expire, 
Consumed with that which it was nourished by." 

— Shakespeare. 



SHE RETURNS FOR THE NEW SEASON 

Twenty years had spread their films over 
the events which wound up with the reunion 
of the second Avice and her husband, and the 
hoary peninsula called an island looked just 
the same as before ; though many who had 
formerly projected their daily shadows upon 
its unrelieved summer whiteness ceased now 
to disturb the colorless sunlight there. 

The general change, nevertheless, was small. 
The silent ships came and went from the 
wharf, the chisels clinked in the quarries ; file 
after file of whity-brown horses, in strings of 
eight or ten, painfully dragged down the hill 
the square blocks of stone on the antediluvian 
wooden wheels just as usual. The light-ship 
winked every night from the quicksands to the 
Beal Lantern, and the Beal Lantern glared 
through its eye-glass on the ship. The canine 
gnawing audible on the Pebble-bank had been 

2 -' ') 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

repeated ever since at each tide, but the peb- 
bles remained undevoured. 

Men drank, smoked, and spat in the inns 
with only a little more adulteration in their 
refreshments and a trifle less dialect in their 
speech than of yore. But one figure had 
never been seen on the Channel rock in the 
interval — the form of Pierston the sculptor, 
whose first use of the chisel that rock had in- 
stigated. 

He had lived abroad a great deal, and, in 
fact, at this very date he was staying at a 
hotel in Rome. Though he had not once set 
eyes on Avice since parting from her in the 
room with her first-born, he had managed to 
obtain tidings of her from time to time during 
the interval. In this way Pierston learned 
that, shortly after their resumption of a com- 
mon life in her house, Ike had ill-used her, till, 
fortunately, the business to which Jocelyn 
had assisted him chancing to prosper, he be- 
came immersed in its details, and allowed 
Avice to pursue her household courses without 
interference, initiating that kind of domestic 
reconciliation which is so calm and durable, 
having as its chief ingredient neither hate nor 
love, but an all-embracing indifference. 

224 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

At first Pierston had sent her sums of 
money privately, fearing lest her husband 
should deny her material comforts ; but he 
soon found, to his great relief, that such help 
was unnecessary, social ambition prompting 
Ike to set up as quite a gentleman-islander 
and to allow Avice a scope for show which he 
would never have allowed in mere kindness. 

Being in Rome, as aforesaid, Pierston re- 
turned one evening to his hotel to dine, after 
spending the afternoon among the busts in 
the long gallery of the Vatican. The uncon- 
scious habit, common to so many people, of 
tracing likes in unlikes had often led him to 
discern, or to fancy he discerned, in the Ro- 
man atmosphere, in its lights and shades, and 
particularly in its reflected or secondary lights, 
something resembling the atmosphere of his 
native promontory. Perhaps it was that in 
each case the eye was mostly resting on stone 
— that the quarries of ruins in the Eternal 
City reminded him of the quarries of maiden 
rock at home. 

This being in his mind when he sat down to 
dinner at the common table, he was surprised 
to hear an American gentleman who sat op- 
posite mention the name of Pierston's birth- 
p 225 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

place. The American was talking to a friend 
about a lady — an English widow, whose ac- 
quaintance they had renewed somewhere in 
the Channel Islands during a recent tour, af- 
ter having known her as a young woman who 
came to San Francisco with her father and 
mother many years before. Her father was 
then a rich man, just retired from the business 
of a stone-merchant in England ; but he had 
engaged in large speculations, and had lost 
nearly all his fortune. Jocelyn further gath- 
ered that the widowed daughter's name was 
Mrs. Leverre ; that she had a stepson — her 
husband having been a Jersey gentleman, a 
widower — and that the stepson seemed to be 
a promising and interesting young man. 

Pierston was instantly struck with the per- 
ception that these and other allusions, though 
general, were in accord with the history of his 
long-lost Marcia. He hardly felt any desire to 
hunt her up after nearly two- score years of 
separation, but he was impressed enough to 
resolve to exchange a word with the strangers 
as soon as he could get opportunity. 

He could not well attract their attention 

through the plants upon the wide table, and, 

even if he had been able, he was disinclined to 

226 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

ask questions in public. He waited on till 
dinner was over, and when the strangers with- 
drew Pierston withdrew in their rear. 

They were not in the drawing-room, and he 
found that they had gone out. There was no 
chance of overtaking them, but Pierston, waked 
to restlessness by their remarks, wandered up 
and down the adjoining Piazza di Spagna, 
thinking they might return. The streets be- 
low were immersed in shade, the front of the 
church at the top was flooded with orange 
light, the gloom of evening gradually intensi- 
fying upon the broad, long flight of steps, 
which foot-passengers incessantly ascended and 
descended with the insignificance of ants; the 
dusk wrapped up the house to the left, in which 
Shelley had lived, and that to the right, in 
which Keats had died. 

Getting back to the hotel, he learned that the 
Americans had only dropped in to dine, and 
were- staying elsewhere. Me saw no more of 
them ; and on reflection he was not deeply 
concerned, for what earthly woman, going <»ff 
in a freak as Marcia had done, and keeping 
Silence 50 long, would care for a belated friend- 
ship with him, now in the s< n if he were 
to take the trouble to discover hei 

227 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Thus much Marcia. The other thread of his 
connection with the ancient Isle of Slingers 
was stirred by a letter he received from Avice 
a little after this date, in which she stated that 
her husband Ike had been killed in his own 
quarry by an accident within the past year; 
that she herself had been ill, and though 
well again, and left amply provided for, she 
would like to see him if he ever came that 
way. 

As she had not communicated for several 
long years, her expressed wish to see him now 
was likely to be prompted by something more, 
something newer, than memories of him. Yet 
the manner of her writing precluded all sus- 
picion that she was thinking of him as an old 
lover whose suit events had now made practi- 
cable. He told her he was sorry to hear that 
she had been ill, and that he would certainly 
take an early opportunity of going down to 
her home on his next visit to England. 

He did more. Her request had revived 
thoughts of his old home and its associations, 
and instead of awaiting other reasons for a re- 
turn he made her the operating one. About 
a week later he stood once again at the foot 
of the familiar steep whereon the houses at the 

228 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

entrance to the isle were perched like gray 
pigeons on a roof-side. 

At Top-o'-Hill — as the summit of the rock 
was mostly called — he stood looking at the 
busy doings in the quarries beyond, where the 
numerous black hoisting-cranes scattered over 
the central plateau had the appearance of a 
swarm of crane-flies resting there. He went a 
little farther, made some general inquiries 
about the accident which had carried off 
Avice's husband in the previous year, and 
learned that, though now a widow, she had 
plenty of friends and sympathizers about her, 
which rendered any immediate attention to 
her on his part unnecessary. Considering, 
therefore, that there was no great reason why 
he should call on her so soon, and without 
warning, he turned back. Perhaps, after all, 
her request had been dictated by a momentary 
feeling only, and a considerable strangeness to 
each other must naturally be the result of a 
score of dividing years. Descending to the 
bottom, he took his seat in the train on the 
shore, which soon carried him along the Bank 
and round to the watering-place five miles off, 
at which he had taken up his quarters for a 
few days. 

229 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Here, as he stayed on, his local interests re- 
vived. Whenever he went out he could see 
the island that was once his home lying like 
a great snail upon the sea across the bay. It 
was the spring of the year ; local steamers had 
begun to run, and he was never tired of stand- 
ing on the thinly occupied deck of one of these 
as it skirted the island and revealed to him on 
the cliffs far up its height the ruins of Red 
King's castle, behind which the little village 
of East Quarriers lay. 

Thus matters went on, if they did not rather 
stand still, for several days before Pierston re- 
deemed his vague promise to seek Avice out. 
And in the meantime he was surprised by the 
arrival of another letter from her by a round- 
about route. She had heard, she said, that he 
had been on the island, and imagined him 
therefore to be staying somewhere near. Why 
did he not call, as he had told her he would 
do? She was always thinking of him and 
wishing to see him. 

Her tone was anxious, and there was no 
doubt that she really had something to say 
which she did not wish to write. He won- 
dered what it could be, and started the same 
afternoon. 

230 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

Avice, who had been little in his mind of 
late years, began to renew for herself a dis- 
tinct position therein. He was fully aware 
that since his earlier manhood a change had 
come over his regard of womankind. Once 
the individual had been nothing more to him 
than the temporary abiding-place of the typi- 
cal or ideal ; now his heart showed its bent to 
be a growing fidelity to the specimen, with all 
her pathetic flaws of detail ; which flaws, so 
far from sending him farther, increased his 
tenderness. This maturer feeling, if finer and 
higher, was less convenient than the old. Ar- 
dors of passion could be felt as in youth with- 
out the recuperative intervals which had ac- 
companied evanescence. 

The first sensation was to find that she had 
long ceased to live in the little freehold cot- 
tage she had occupied of old. In answer to 
his inquiries he was directed along the road to 
the wrest of the modern castle, past the en- 
trance on that side, and onward to the very 
house that had once been his own home. 
There it stood, as of yore, facing up the Chan- 
nel, a comfortable room)- structure, the euony- 
mus and other shrubs, which alone would 
stand in the teeth of the salt wind, living on 
o 231 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

at about the same stature in front of it, but 
the paint-work much renewed. A thriving 
man had resided there of late, evidently. 

The widow in mourning who received him 
in the front parlor was, alas ! but the sorry 
shadow of Avice the Second. How could he 
have fancied otherwise after twenty years? 
Yet he had been led to fancy otherwise, al- 
most without knowing it, by feeling himself 
unaltered. Indeed, curiously enough, nearly 
the first words she said to him were, " Why, 
you are just the same !" 

" Just the same. Yes, I am, Avice," he an- 
swered, sadly ; for this inability to ossify with 
the rest of his generation threw him out of pro- 
portion with the time. Moreover, while wear- 
ing the aspect of comedy, it was of the nature 
of tragedy. 

" It is well to be you, sir," she went on. 
" I have had troubles to take the bloom off 
me!" 

" Yes ; I have been sorry for you." 

She continued to regard him curiously, with 
humorous interest ; and he knew what was 
passing in her mind : that this man, to whom 
she had formerly looked up as to a person far 
in advance of her along the lane of life, seemed 

232 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

now to be a well-adjusted contemporary, the 
pair of them observing the world with fairly 
level eyes. 

He had come to her with warmth for a vis- 
ion which, on reaching her, he found to have 
departed ; and, though fairly weaned by the 
natural reality, he was so far stanch as to lin- 
ger hankeringly. They talked of past days — 
his old attachment, which she had then de- 
spised, being now far more absorbing and 
present to her than to himself. 

She unmistakably won upon him as he sat 
on. A curious closeness between them had 
been produced in his imagination by the dis- 
covery that she was passing her life within 
the house of his own childhood. Her similar 
surname meant little here ; but it was also his, 
and, added to the identity of domicile, lent a 
strong suggestiveness to the accident. 

" This is where I used to sit when my par- 
ents occupied the house," he said, placing him- 
self beside that corner of the fireplace which 
commanded a view through the window. " I 
could sec a bough of tamarisk wave outside at 
that time, and, beyond the bough, the same 
abrupt grassy waste towards the sea, and at 
ht the same old light-ship blinking far out 

233 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

there. Place yourself on the spot, to please 
me." 

She set her chair where he indicated, and 
Pierston stood close beside her, directing her 
gaze to the familiar objects he had regarded 
thence as a boy. Her head and face — the lat- 
ter thoughtful and worn enough, poor thing, 
to suggest a married life none too comforta- 
ble — were close to his breast, and with a few 
inches further incline would have touched it. 

"And now you are the inhabitant, I the 
visitor," he said. " I am glad to see you here 
— so glad, Avice ! You are fairly well pro- 
vided for — I think I may assume that?" He 
looked round the room at the solid mahogany 
furniture and at the modern piano and show- 
bookcase. 

"Yes, Ike left me comfortable. 'Twas he 
who thought of moving from my cottage to 
this larger house. He bought it, and I can 
live here as long as I choose to." 

Apart from the decline of his adoration to 
friendship, there seemed to be a general con- 
vergence of positions which suggested that he 
might make amends for the original desertion 
by proposing to this Avice when a meet time 
should arrive. If he did not love her as he 

234 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

had done when she was a slim thing catching 
mice in his rooms in London, he could surely 
be content at his age with comradeship. Af- 
ter all, she was only forty to his sixty. The 
feeling that he really could be thus content 
was so convincing that he almost believed the 
luxury of getting old and reposeful was com- 
ing to his restless, wandering heart at last. 

" Well, you have come at last, sir," she went 
on ; " and I am grateful to you. I did not like 
writing, and yet I wanted to be straightfor- 
ward. Have you guessed at all why I wished 
to see you so much that I could not help send- 
ing twice to you ?" 

" I have tried, but cannot." 

"Try again. It is a pretty reason, which I 
hope you'll forgive." 

" I am sure I sha'n't unriddle it. But I'll 
say this on my own account before you tell 
me : I have always taken a lingering interest 
in you, which you must value for what it is 
worth. It originated, so far as it concerns you 
personally, with the sight of you in that cottage 
round the corner, nineteen or twenty years 
>, when I became tenant of the castle 
opposite. But that was not the very begin- 
ning. The very beginning was a score of years 

235 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

before that, when I, a young fellow of one-and- 
twenty, coming home here from London to 
see my father, encountered a tender woman as 
like you as your double ; was much attracted 
by her, as I saw her day after day flit past this 
window, till I made it my business to accom- 
pany her in her walks awhile. I, as you know, 
was not a stanch fellow, and it all ended bad- 
ly. But, at any rate, her daughter and I are 
friends." 

"Ah, there she is!" suddenly exclaimed 
Avice, whose attention had wandered some- 
what from his retrospective discourse. She 
was looking from the window towards the 
cliffs, where, upon the open ground quite near 
at hand, a slender female form was seen ram- 
bling along. " She is out for a walk," Avice 
continued. " I wonder if she is going to call 
here this afternoon? She is living at the cas- 
tle opposite as governess." 

" Oh, she's—" 

" Yes. Her education was very thorough — 

better even than her grandmother's. I was 

the neglected one, and Isaac and myself both 

vowed that there should be no complaint on 

that score about her. We christened her Avice, 

to keep up the name, as you requested. I wish 

236 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

you could speak to her ; I am sure you would 
like her." 

"Is that the baby?" faltered Jocelyn. 

" Yes, the baby." 

The person signified, now much nearer, was 
a still more modernized, up-to-date edition of 
the two Avices of that blood with whom he 
had been involved more or less for the last 
forty years. A ladylike creature was she — 
almost elegant. She was altogether finer in 
figure than her mother or grandmother had 
ever been, which made her more of a woman 
in appearance than in years. She wore a large- 
disked sun-hat, with a brim like a wheel whose 
spokes were radiating folds of muslin lining 
the brim, a black margin beyond the muslin 
being the felloe. Beneath this brim her hair 
was massed low upon her brow, the color of 
the thick tresses being obviously, from her 
complexion, repeated in the irises of her large, 
deep eyes. Her rather nervous lips were thin 
and closed, so that they only appeared as a 
delicate red line. A changeable temperament 
\tfas shown by that mouth — quick transitions 
from affection to aversion, from a pout to a 
smile. 

It was Avice the Third. 

237 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Jocelyn and the second Avice continued to 
gaze ardently at her. 

"Ah, she is not coming in now; she hasn't 
time," murmured the mother, with some dis- 
appointment. " Perhaps she means to run 
across in the evening." 

The tall girl, in fact, went past and on till 
she was out of sight. Pierston stood as in a 
dream. It was the very she, in all essential 
particulars, and with an intensification of gen- 
eral charm, who had kissed him forty years 
before. When he turned his head from the 
window his eyes fell again upon the inter- 
mediate Avice at his side. Before but the relic 
of the Well-Beloved, she had now become its 
empty shrine. Warm friendship, indeed, he 
felt for her; but whatever that might have 
done towards the instauration of a former 
dream was now hopelessly barred by the ri- 
valry of the thing itself in the guise of a lin- 
eal successor. 









II 

MISGIVINGS ON THE RE-EMBODIMENT 

PlERSTON had been about to leave, but he 
sat down again on being asked if he would 
stay and have a cup of tea. He hardly knew 
for a moment what he did ; a dim thought 
that Avice — the renewed Avice — might come 
into the house made his reseating himself an 
act of spontaneity. 

He forgot that twenty years earlier he had 
called the now Mrs. Pierston an elf, a witch ; 
and that lapse of time had probably not di- 
minished the subtleties implied by those epi- 
thets. He did not know that she had noted 
every impression that her daughter had made 
upon him. 

How he contrived to attenuate and disperse 
the rather tender personalities he had opened 
up with the new Avice's mother, Pierston 
never exactly defined. Perhaps she saw more 
than he thought she saw — read something in 

239 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

his face — knew that about his nature which he 
gave her no credit for knowing. Anyhow, the 
conversation took the form of a friendly gos- 
sip from that minute, his remarks being often 
given while his mind was turned elsewhere. 

But a chill passed through Jocelyn when 
there had been time for reflection. The re- 
newed study of his art in Rome, without any 
counterbalancing practical pursuit, had nour- 
ished and developed his natural responsive- 
ness to impressions ; he now felt that his old 
trouble, his doom — his curse, indeed, he had 
sometimes called it — was come back again. 
His divinity was not yet propitiated for that 
original sin against her image in the person of 
Avice the First ; and now, at the age of one- 
and- sixty, he was urged on and on like the 
Jew Ahasuerus — or, in the phrase of the isl- 
anders themselves, like a blind ram. 
, The Goddess, an abstraction to the general, 
was a fairly real personage to Pierston. He 
had watched the marble images of her which 
stood in his working-room, under all changes 
of light and shade — in the brightening of 
morning, in the blackening of eve, in moon- 
light, in lamplight. Every line and curve of 
her body none, naturally, knew better than 

240 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

he ; and, though not a belief, it was, as has 
been stated, a formula, a superstition, that the 
three Avices were interpenetrated with her 
essence. 

" And the next Avice — your daughter," he 
said, stumblingly ; " she is, you say, a govern- 
ess at the castle opposite?" 

Mrs. Pierston reaffirmed the fact, adding 
that the girl often slept at home because she, 
her mother, was so lonely. She often thought 
she would like to keep her daughter at home 
altogether. 

" She plays that instrument, I suppose?" 
said Pierston, regarding the piano. 

"Yes, she plays beautifully; she had the 
best instruction that masters could give her. 
She was educated at Sandbourne." 

" Which room does she call hers when at 
home?" he asked, curiously. 

" The little one over this." 

It had been his own. "Strange," he mur- 
mured. 

He finished tea, and sat after tea, but the 
youthful Avice did not arrive. With the 
Avice present he conversed as the old friend 
— no more. At last it grew dusk, and Pierston 
could not find an excuse for staying longer. 

141 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" I hope to make the acquaintance — of 
your daughter," he said, in leaving, knowing 
that he might have added with predestinate 
truth, "of my new tenderly: beloved." 

"I hope you will," shejmswered. "This 
evening she evidently has gone for a walk in- 
stead of coming here." 

" And, by -the -bye, you have not told me 
what you especially wanted to see me for?" 

"Ah, no. I will put it off." 

" Very well. I don't pretend to guess." 

" I must tell you another time." 

" If it is any little business in connection 
w r ith your late husband's affairs, do command 
me. I'll do anything I can." 

"Thank you. And I shall see you again 
soon? 

" Certainly. Quite soon." 

When he was gone she looked reflectively 
at the spot where he had been standing, and 
said : " Best hold my tongue. It will work of 
itself, without my telling." 

Jocelyn went from the house, but as the 
white road passed under his feet he felt in no 
mood to get back to his lodgings in the town 
on the mainland. He lingered about upon 
the undulating ground for a long while, think- 

242 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

ing of the extraordinary reproduction of the 
original girl in this new form he had seen, and 
of himself as of a foolish dreamer in being so 
suddenly fascinated by the renewed image in 
a personality not one -third his age. As a 
physical fact, no doubt, the preservation of 
the likeness was no uncommon thing here, 
but it helped the dream. 

Passing round the walls of the new castle, 
he deviated from his homeward track by turn- 
ing down the familiar little lane which led to 
the ruined castle of the Red King. It took 
him past the cottage in which the new Avice 
was born, from whose precincts he had heard 
her first infantine cry. Pausing, he saw near 
the west, behind him, the new moon growing 
distinct upon the glow. 

He was subject to gigantic fantasies still. 
In spite of himself, the sight of the new moon, 
as representing one who, by her so-called in- 
constancy, acted up to his own ide a of a m i- 
gratory Well-B eloved, made him J eelas if his 
wraith, in a changed sex, had suddenly looked 
over the horizon at him. In a crowd secretly, 
or in solitude boldly, he had often bowed the 
knee three times to this sisterly divinity on 
her first appearance monthly, and directed a 

243 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

kiss towards her shining shape. The curse of 
his qualities (if it were not a blessing) was far 
from having spent itself yet. 

In the other direction the castle ruins rose 
square and dusky against the sea. He went 
on towards these, around which he had played 
as a boy, and stood by the walls at the edge 
of the cliff pondering. There was no wind 
and but little tide, and he thought he could 
hear from years ago a voice that he knew. It 
certainly was a voice, but it came from the 
rocks beneath the castle ruin. 

" Mrs. Atway !" 

A silence followed, and nobody came. The 
voice spoke again : " John Stoney !" 

Neither was this summons attended to. The 
cry continued, with more entreaty : " William 
Scribben !" 

The voice was that of a Pierston — there 
could be no doubt of it — young Avice's, sure- 
ly. Something or other seemed to be detain- 
ing her down there against her will. A sloping 
path beneath the beetling cliff and the castle 
walls rising sheer from its summit led down 
to the lower level whence the voice proceeded. 
Pierston followed the pathway, and soon be- 
held a girl in light clothing — the same he had 

244 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

seen through the window — standing upon one 
of the rocks, apparently unable to move. Pier- 
ston hastened across to her. 

" Oh, thank you for coming!" she murmured, 
with some timidity. " I have met with an 
awkward mishap. I live near here, and am 
not frightened really. My foot has become 
jammed in a crevice of the rock, and I can- 
not get it out, try how I will. What shall 
I do!" 

Jocelyn stooped and examined the cause of 
discomfiture. " I think if you can take your 
boot off," he said, "your foot might slip out, 
leaving the boot behind." 

She tried to act upon this advice, but could 
not do so effectually. Pierston then experi- 
mented by slipping his hand into the crevice 
till he could just reach the buttons of her boot, 
which, however, he could not unfasten any 
more than she. Taking his penknife from his 
pocket, he tried again, and cut off the buttons 
one by one. The boot unfastened, and out 
slipped the foot. 

11 Oh, how glad I am I" she cried, joyfully. 
" I was fearing I should have to stay here all 
night. How can I thank you enough ?" 

He was tugging to withdraw the boot, but 

245 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

no force that he could exercise would move it. 
At last she said : " Don't try any longer. It 
is not far to the house. I can walk in my 
stocking." 

" I'll assist you in," he said. 

She said she did not want help, nevertheless 
allowed him to help her on the unshod side. 
As they moved on she explained that she had 
come out through the garden door; had been 
standing on the boulders to look at something 
out at sea, just discernible in the evening light 
as assisted by the moon, and, in jumping down, 
had wedged her foot as he had found it. 

Whatever Pierston's years might have made 
him look by day, in the dusk of evening he 
was fairly presentable as a pleasing man of no 
marked antiquity, his outline differing but lit- 
tle from what it had been when he was half 
his years. He was well preserved, still up- 
right, trimly shaven, agile in movement ; wore 
a tightly buttoned suit, which set off a natu- 
rally slight figure ; in brief, he might have been 
of any age as he appeared to her at this mo- 
ment. She talked to him with the coequality 
of one who assumed him to be not far ahead 
of her own generation ; and, as the growing 
darkness obscured him more and more, he 

246 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

adopted her assumption of his age with in- 
creasing boldness of tone. 

The flippant, harmless freedom of the water- 
ing-place miss, which Avice had plainly ac- 
quired during her sojourn at the Sandbourne 
school, helped Pierston greatly in this role of 
jeune premier which he was not unready to 
play. Not a word did he say about being a 
native of the island ; still more carefully did 
he conceal the fact of his having courted her 
grandmother and engaged himself to marry 
that attractive lady. 

He found that she had come out upon the 
rocks through the same little private door from 
the lawn of the modern castle which had fre- 
quently afforded him egress to the same spot 
in years long past. Pierston accompanied her 
across the grounds almost to the entrance of 
the mansion — the place being now far better 
kept and planted than when he had rented it 
as a lonely tenant ; almost, indeed, restored to 
the order and neatness which had characterized 
it when he was a boy. 

Like her granny, she was too inexperienced 

to be reserved, and during this little climb, 

Upon his arm, there was time for a 

great deal of confidence. When he had bidden 

k 247 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

her farewell and she had entered, leaving him 
in the dark, a rush of sadness through Pier- 
ston's soul swept down all the temporary pleas- 
ure he had found in the charming girl's com- 
pany. Had Mephistopheles sprung from the 
ground there and then with an offer to Jocelyn 
of restoration to youth on the usual terms of 
his firm, the sculptor might have consented to 
sell a part of himself which he felt less imme- 
diate need of than of a ruddy lip and cheek 
and an unploughed brow. 

But what could only have been treated as a 
folly by outsiders was almost a sorrow for him. 
Why was he born with such a temperament? 
And this concatenated interest could hardly 
have arisen, even with Pierston, but for a con- 
flux of circumstances only possible here. The 
three Avices, the second something like the 
first, the third a glorification of the first, at all 
events externally, were the outcome of the 
immemorial island customs of intermarriage 
and of prenuptial union, under which condi- 
tions the type of feature was almost uniform 
from parent to child through generations: so 
that, till quite latterly, to have seen one native 
man and woman was to have seen the whole 
population of that isolated rock, so nearly cut 

248 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

off from the mainland. His own predisposi- 
tion and the sense of his early faithlessness did 
all the rest. 

He turned gloomily away, and let himself 
out of the precincts. Before walking along the 
couple of miles of road which would conduct 
him to the little station on the shore, he rede- 
scended to the rocks whereon he had found 
her, and searched about for the fissure which 
had made a prisoner of this terribly belated 
edition of the Beloved. Kneeling down beside 
the spot, he inserted his hand, and ultimately, 
by much wriggling, withdrew the little boot. 
He mused over it for a moment, put it in his 
pocket, and followed the stony route to the 
Street of Wells. 



I 

III 

THE RENEWED IMAGE BURNS ITSELF IN 

There was nothing to hinder Pierston in 
calling upon the new Avice's mother as often 
as he should choose, beyond the five miles of 
intervening railway and additional mile or two 
of clambering over the heights of the island. 
Two days later, therefore, he repeated his jour- 
ney and knocked about tea-time at the wid- 
ow's door. 

As he had feared, the daughter was not at 
home. He sat down beside the old sweetheart 
who, having eclipsed her mother in past days, 
had now eclipsed herself in her child. Jocelyn 
produced the girl's boot from his pocket. 

" Then, 'tis you who helped Avice out of her 
predicament ?" said Mrs. Pierston, with surprise. 

" Yes, my dear friend ; and perhaps I shall 

ask you to help me out of mine before I have 

done. But never mind that now. What did 

she tell you about the adventure ?" 

250 






A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

Airs. Pierston was looking thoughtfully upon 
him. " Well, 'tis rather strange it should have 
been you, sir," she replied. She seemed to be 
a good deal interested. " I thought it might 
have been a younger man — a much younger 
man." 

" It might have been, as far as feelings were 
concerned. . . . Now, Avice, I'll to the point 
at once. Virtually, I have known your daugh- 
ter any number of years. When I talk to her 
I can anticipate every turn of her thought, 
every sentiment, every act, so long did I 
study those things in your mother and in 
you. Therefore, I do not require to learn her; 
she was learned by me in her previous exist- 
ences. Now, don't be shocked ; I am willing 
to marry her — I should be overjoyed to do it, 
if there would be nothing preposterous about 
it, or that would seem like a man making him- 
self too much of a fool, and so degrading her 
in consenting. I can make her comparatively 
rich, as you know, and I would indulge her 
every whim. There is the idea, bluntly put. 
It would set right something in my mind that 
ha been wrong for forty years. After my 
death she would have plenty of freedom and 
plenty of means to enjoy it." 

251 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Mrs. Isaac Pierston seemed only a little sur- 
prised ; certainly not shocked. 

"Well, if I didn't think you might be a bit 
taken with her !" she said, with an arch sim- 
plicity which could hardly be called unaf- 
fected. " Knowing the set of your mind, 
from my little time with you years ago, noth- 
ing you could do in this way would astonish 
me." 

" But you don't think badly of me for it?" 

" Not at all. . . . By-the-bye, did you ever 
guess why I asked you to come? . . . But 
never mind it now ; the matter is past. ... Of 
course, it would depend upon what Avice felt. 
. . . Perhaps she would rather marry a younger 
man." 

" And suppose a satisfactory younger man 
should not appear?" 

Mrs. Pierston showed in her face that she 
fully recognized the difference between a rich 
bird in hand and a young bird in the bush. 
She looked him curiously up and down. 

" I know you would make anybody a very 
nice husband," she said. " I know that you 
would be nicer than many men half your age ; 
and, though there is a great deal of difference 
between you and her, there have been more 

252 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

unequal marriages, that's true. Speaking as 
her mother, I can say that I shouldn't object 
to you, sir, for her, provided she liked you. 
That is where the difficulty will lie." 

M I wish you would help me to get over that 
difficulty," he said, gently. " Remember, I 
brought back a truant husband to you twenty 
years ago." 

" Yes, you did," she assented, " and, though 
I may say no great things as to happiness 
came of it, I've always seen that your inten- 
tions towards me were none the less noble on 
that account. I would do for you what I 
would do for no other man, and there is one 
reason in particular which inclines me to help 
you with Avice — that I should feel absolutely 
certain I was helping her to a kind husband." 

11 Well, that would remain to be seen. I 
would, at any rate, try to be worthy of your 
opinion. Come, Avice, for old times' sake, 
you must help me. You never felt anything 
but friendship in those days, you know, and 
that makes it easy and proper for you to do 
me a good turn now." 

After a little more conversation his old 
friend promised that she really would do 
everything that lay in her power. She did 

253 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

not say how simple she thought him not to 
perceive that she had already, by writing to 
him, been doing everything that lay in her 
power ; had created the feeling which prompt- 
ed his entreaty. And to show her good faith 
in this promise she asked him to wait till later 
in the evening, when Avice might possibly 
run across to see her. 

Pierston, who fancied he had won the 
younger xA-vice's interest, at least, by the part 
he had played upon the rocks the week be- 
fore, had a dread of encountering her in full 
light till he should have advanced a little fur- 
ther in her regard. He accordingly was per- 
plexed at this proposal, and, seeing his hesita- 
tion, Mrs. Pierston suggested that they should 
walk together in the direction whence Avice 
would come, if she came at all. 

He welcomed the idea, and in a few min- 
utes they started, strolling along under the 
now strong moonlight, and when they reached 
the gates of Sylvania Castle turning back 
again towards the house. After two or three 
such walks up and down, the gate of the castle 
grounds clicked, and a form came forth which 
proved to be the expected one. 

As soon as they met, the girl recognized in 

254 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

her mother's companion the gentleman who 
had helped her on the shore ; and she seemed 
really glad to find that her chivalrous assistant 
was claimed by her parent as an old friend. 
She remembered hearing at divers times about 
this worthy London man of talent and posi- 
tion, whose ancestry were people of her own 
isle, and possibly, from the name, of a com- 
mon stock with her own. 

"And you have actually lived in Sylvania 
Castle yourself, Mr. Pierston?" asked Avice 
the daughter, with her innocent young voice. 
" Was it long ago ?" 

"Yes, it was some time ago," replied the 
sculptor, with a sinking at his heart lest she 
should say how long. 

" It must have been when I was away — c~ 
when I was very little." 

" I don't think you were away." 

u But I don't think I could have been here?" 

" No, perhaps you couldn't have been here." 

11 I think she was hiding herself in the pars- 
ley-bed," said A vice's mother, blandly. 

They talked in this general way till they 
reached Mr-. Pi rston's house; but Jocelyn 
resisted both the widow's invitation and the 
desire of his own heart, and went away with- 




THE WELL-BELOVED 

out entering. To risk, by visibly confronting 
her, the advantage that he had already gained, 
or fancied he had gained, with the reincarnate 
Avice required more courage than he could 
claim in his present mood. 

Such evening promenades as these were fre- 
quent during the waxing of that summer 
moon. On one occasion, as they were all 
good walkers, it was arranged that they 
should meet half way between the island and 
the town in which Pierston had lodgings. It 
was impossible that by this time the pretty 
young governess should not have guessed the 
ultimate reason of these rambles to be a mat- 
rimonial intention ; but she inclined to the be- 
lief that the widow, rather than herself, was the 
object of Pierston's regard ; though why this 
educated and apparently wealthy man should 
be attracted by her mother — whose homeliness 
was apparent enough to the girl's more mod- 
ern training — she could not comprehend. 

They met accordingly in the middle of the 
Pebble-bank, Pierston coming from the main- 
land, and the women from the peninsular 
rock. Crossing the wooden bridge which 
connected the bank with the shore proper, 

256 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

they moved in the direction of Henry the 
Eighth's Castle, on the verge of the ragstone 
cliff. Like the Red King's castle on the 
island, the interior was open to the sky, and 
when they entered and the full moon streamed 
down upon them over the edge of the enclos- 
ing masonry, the whole present reality faded 
from Jocelyn's mind under the press of mem- 
ories. Neither of his companions guessed 
what Pierston was thinking of. It was in this 
very spot that he was to have met the grand- 
mother of the girl at his side, and in which he 
would have met her had she chosen to keep 
the appointment ; a meeting which might — 
nay, must — have changed the whole current 
of his life. 

Instead of that, forty years had passed — 
forty years of severance from Avice, till a 
secondly renewed copy of his sweetheart had 
arisen to fill her place. But he, alas! was not 
renewed. And of all this the pretty young 
thing at his side knew nothing. 

Taking advantage of the younger woman's 
retreat to view the sea through an opening 
of the walls, Pierston appealed to her mother 
in a whisper: "Have you ever given her a 
hint of what my meaning is? No? Then I 
k 257 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

think you might, if you really have no ob- 
jection." 

Mrs. Pierston, as the widow, was far from 
being so coldly disposed in her own person 
towards her friend as in the days when he 
wanted to marry her. Had she now been the 
object of his wishes he would not have needed 
to ask her twice. But like a good mother she 
stifled all this, and said she would sound Avice 
there and then. 

" Avice, my dear," she said, advancing to 
where the girl mused in the window -gap, 
" what do you think of Mr. Pierston paying 
his addresses to you — coming courting, as / 
call it in my old-fashioned way? Supposing 
he were to, would you encourage him ?" 

" To me, mother?" said Avice, with an in- 
quiring laugh. " I thought — he meant you !" 

" Oh no, he doesn't mean me !" said her 
mother, hastily. " He is nothing more than 
my friend." 

" I don't want any addresses," said the 
daughter. 

" He is a man in society, and would take 
you to an elegant house in London, suited to 
your education, instead of leaving you to 
mope here." 

258 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

" I should like that well enough," replied 
Avice, carelessly. 

" Then give him some encouragement." 

" I don't care enough about him to do any 
encouraging. It is his business, I should 
think, to do all." 

She spoke in her lightest vein ; but the result 
was that when Pierston, who had discreetly 
withdrawn, returned to them, she walked doc- 
ilely, though perhaps gloomily, beside him, 
her mother dropping to the rear. They came 
to a rugged descent, and Pierston took her 
hand to help her. She allowed him to retain 
it when they arrived on level ground. 

Altogether it was not an unsuccessful even- 
ing for the man with the unanchored heart, 
though possibly initial success meant worse 
for him in the long run than initial failure. 
There was nothing marvellous in the fact of 
her tractability thus far. In his modern dress 
and style, under the rays of the moon, he 
looked a very presentable gentleman indeed, 
while his knowledge of art and his travelled 
manni ra were not without their attractions for 

irl who with one hand touched the educated 
middle class and with the other the rude and 
simple inhabitants of the isle. Her intensely 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

modern sympathies were quickened by her 
peculiar outlook. 

Pierston would have regarded his interest in 
her as overmuch selfish if there had not existed 
a redeeming quality in the substratum of old 
pathetic memory by which such love had been 
created — which still permeated it, rendering it 
the tenderest, most anxious, most protective 
instinct he had ever known. It may have had 
in its composition too much of the boyish 
fervor that had characterized such affection 
when he was cherry-cheeked and light in the 
foot as a girl; but if it was all this feeling of 
youth, it was more. 

Mrs. Pierston, in fearing to be frank lest she 
might seem to be angling for his fortune, did 
not fully divine his cheerful readiness to offer 
it, if by so doing he could make amends for 
his infidelity to her family forty years back in 
the past. Time had not made him mercenary, 
and it had quenched his ambitions ; and though 
his wish to wed Avice was not entirely a wish 
to enrich her, the knowledge that she would 
be enriched beyond anything that she could 
have anticipated was what allowed him to in- 
dulge his love. 

He was not exactly old, he said to himself 

260 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

the next morning as he beheld his face in the 
glass. And he looked considerably younger 
than he was. But there was history in his face 
— distinct chapters of it ; his brow was not that 
blank page it once had been. He knew the 
origin of that line in his forehead; it had been 
traced in the course of a month or two by past 
troubles. He remembered the coming of this 
pale wiry hair; it had been brought by the ill- 
ness in Rome, when he had wished each 
night that he might never wake again. This 
wrinkled corner, that drawn bit of skin — they 
had resulted from those months of despond- 
ency when all seemed going against his art, 
his strength, his happiness. " You cannot live 
your life and keep it, Jocelyn," he said. Time 
was against him and love, and time would 
probably win. 

"When I went away from the first Avice," 
he continued, with whimsical misery, " I had 
a presentiment that I should ache for it some 
day. And I am aching — have ached ever since 
this jade of an Ideal learned the unconscion- 
able trick of inhabiting one image only." 

Upon the whole, he was not without a bode- 

ment that it would be folly to press on. 

261 



IV 

A DASH FOR THE LAST INCARNATION 

THIS desultory courtship of a young girl, 
which had been brought about by her mother's 
contrivance, was interrupted by the appearance 
of Somers and his wife and family on the Bud- 
mouth Esplanade. Alfred Somers, once the 
youthful, picturesque as his own paintings, was 
now a middle-aged family man with spectacles 
— spectacles worn, too, with the single object of 
seeing through them — and a row of daughters 
tailing off to infancy, who at present added 
appreciably to the income of the bathing- 
machine women established along the sands. 

Mrs. Somers — once the intellectual, emanci- 
pated Mrs. Pine-Avon — had now retrograded 
to the petty and timid mental position of her 
mother and grandmother, giving sharp, strict 
regard to the current literature and art that 
reached the innocent presence of her long per- 
spective of girls, with the view of hiding every 

262 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

skull and skeleton of life from their dear eyes. 
She was another illustration of the rule that 
succeeding generations of women are seldom 
marked by cumulative progress, their advance 
as girls being lost in their recession as matrons; 
so that they move up and down the stream of 
intellectual development like flotsam in a tidal 
estuary. And this perhaps not by reason of 
their faults as individuals, but of their misfort- 
une as child-rearers. 

The landscape-painter, now an Academician 
like Pierston himself — rather popular than dis- 
tinguished — had given up that peculiar and 
personal taste in subjects which had marked 
him in times past, executing instead many 
pleasing aspects of nature addressed to the 
furnishing householder through the middling 
critic, and really very good of their kind. In 
this way he received many large checks from 
persons of wealth in England and America, 
out of which he built himself a sumptuous 
studio and an awkward house around it, and 
paid for the education of the growing maid- 
ens. 

The vision of Somers's humble position as 
jackal to this lion of a family and house and 
studio and social reputation — Somers, to 
8 263 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

whom strange conceits and wild imaginings 
were departed joys never to return — led Pier- 
ston, as the painter's contemporary, to feel 
that he ought to be one of the bygones like- 
wise, and to put on an air of unromantic buf- 
ferism. He refrained from entering Avice's 
peninsula for the whole fortnight of Somers's 
stay in the neighboring town, although its 
gray poetical outline — "throned along the 
sea " — greeted his eyes every morn and eve 
across the roadstead. 

When the painter and his family had gone 
back from their bathing holiday, he thought 
that he, too, would leave the neighborhood. 
To do so, however, without wishing at least 
the elder Avice good-bye would be unfriendly, 
considering the extent of their acquaintance. 
One evening, knowing this time of day to suit 
her best, he took the few minutes' journey to 
the rock along the thin connecting string of 
junction, and arrived at Mrs. Pierston's door 
just after dark. 

A light shone from an upper chamber. On 
asking for his widowed acquaintance he was 
informed that she was ill, seriously, though 
not dangerously. While learning that her 
daughter was with her, and further particu- 

264 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

Iars, and doubting if he should go in, a mes- 
sage was sent down to ask him to enter. His 
voice had been heard, and Mrs. Pierston would 
like to see him. 

He could not with any humanity refuse, but 
there flashed across his mind the recollection 
that Avice the youngest had never yet really 
seen him, had seen nothing more of him than 
an outline, which might have appertained as 
easily to a man thirty years his junior as to 
himself, and a countenance so renovated by 
faint moonlight as to fairly correspond. It was 
with misgiving, therefore, that the sculptor 
ascended the staircase and entered the little 
upper sitting-room, now arranged as a sick- 
chamber. 

Mrs. Pierston reclined on a sofa, her face 
emaciated to a surprising thinness for the 
comparatively short interval since her attack. 
" Come in, sir," she said, as soon as she saw 
him, holding out her hand. " Don't let me 
frighten you." 

Avice was seated beside her, reading. The 
girl jumped up, hardly seeming to recognize 
him. u ( )h, it's Mr. Pierston '." she said, in a mo- 
ment, adding quickly, with evident surprise and 
off her guard, " I thought Mr. Pier-ton was — " 

265 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



What she had thought he was did not pass 
her lips, and it remained a riddle for Jocelyn 
until a new departure in her manner towards 
him showed that the words "much younger" 
would have accurately ended the sentence. 
Had Pierston not now confronted her anew, 
he might have endured philosophically her 
changed opinion of him. But he was seeing 
her again, and a rooted feeling was revived. 

Pierston now learned for the first time that 
the widow had been visited by sudden attacks 
of this sort not infrequently of late years. 
They were said to be due to angina pectoris, 
the latter paroxysms having been the most 
severe. She was at the present moment out 
of pain, though weak, exhausted, and nervous. 
She would not, however, converse about her- 
self, but took advantage of her daughter's 
absence from the room to broach the subject 
most in her thoughts. 

No compunctions had stirred her as they 
had her visitor on the expediency of his suit 
in view of his years. Her fever of anxiety lest, 
after all, he should not come to see Avice again 
had been not without an effect upon her health ; 
and it made her more candid than she had in- 
tended to be. 

266 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

"Troubles and sickness raise all sorts of 
fears, Mr. Pierston," she said. "What I felt 
only a wish for, when you first named it, I have 
hoped for a good deal since; and I have been 
so anxious that — that it should come to some- 
thing! I am glad indeed that you are come." 

" My wanting to marry Avice, you mean, 
dear Mrs. Pierston?" 

" Yes — that's it. I wonder if you are still in 
the same mind ? You are? Then I wish some- 
thing could be done — to make her agree to it 
— so as to get it settled. I dread otherwise 
what will become of her. She is not a practi- 
cal girl, as I was — she would hardly like now 
to settle down as an islander's wife; and to 
leave her living here alone would trouble 
me. 

"Nothing will happen to you yet, I hope, 
my dear old friend." 

"Well, it is a risky complaint; and the at- 
tacks, when they come, are so agonizing that 
to endure them I ought to get rid of all out- 
side anxieties, folk say. Now — do you want 
her, sir""" 

"With all my soul! But she doesn't want 
me. 

" I don't think she is so against you as you 

267 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

imagine. I fancy if it were put to her plainly, 
now I am in this state, it might be done." 

They lapsed into conversation on the early 
days of their acquaintance, until Mrs. Pier- 
ston's daughter re-entered the room. 

" Avice," said her mother, when the girl had 
been with them a few minutes. " About this 
matter that I have talked over with you so 
many times since my attack. Here is Mr. 
Pierston, and he wishes to be your husband. 
He is much older than you ; but, in spite of it, 
that you will ever get a better husband I don't 
believe. Now, will you take him, seeing the 
state I am in, and how naturally anxious I am 
to see you settled before I die?" 

" But you won't die, mother ! You are get- 
ting better!" 

" Just for the present only. Come, he is a 
good man and a clever man and a rich man. 
I want you, oh, so much ! to be his wife. I 
can say no more." 

Avice looked appealingly at the sculptor 
and then on the floor. " Does he really wish 
me to ?" she asked, almost inaudibly, turning as 
she spoke to Pierston. " He has never quite 
said so to me." 

" My dear one, how can you doubt it ?" said 

268 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

Jocelyn, quickly. " But I won't press you to 
marry me as a favor, against your feelings." 

"I thought Mr. Pierston was younger!" she 
murmured to her mother. 

" That counts for little when you think how 
much there is on the other side. Think of our 
position, and of his — a sculptor, with a man- 
sion, and a studio full of busts and statues that 
I have dusted in my time, and of the beautiful 
studies you would be able to take up. Surely 
the life would just suit you ? Your expensive 
education is wasted down here !" 

Avice did not care to argue. She was out- 
wardly gentle as her grandmother had been, 
and it seemed just a question with her of 
whether she must or must not. " Very well — 
I feel I ought to agree to marry him, since 
you tell me to," she answered, quietly, after 
some thought. " I see that it would be a wise 
thing to do, and that you wish it, and that Mr. 
Pierston really does — like me. So — so that — " 

Pierston was not backward at this critical 
juncture, despite unpleasant sensations. But 
it was the historic ingredient in this genealog- 
ical passion — if its continuity through three 
generations may be so described — which ap- 
pealed to his perseverance at the expense of 

269 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

his wisdom. The mother was holding the 
daughter's hand ; she took Pierston's, and laid 
Avice's in it. 

No more was said in argument, and the 
thing was regarded as determined. Afterwards 
a noise was heard upon the window-panes, as 
of fine sand thrown; and, lifting the blind, 
Pierston saw that the distant light-ship winked 
with a bleared and indistinct eye. A drizzling 
rain had come on with the dark, and it was 
striking the window in handfuls. He had in- 
tended to walk the two miles back to the sta- 
tion, but it meant a drenching to do it now. 
He waited and had supper; and, finding the 
weather no better, accepted Mrs. Pierston's in- 
vitation to stay over the night. 

Thus it fell out that again he lodged in the 
house he had been accustomed to live in as a 
boy, before his father had made his fortune, 
and before his own name had been heard of 
outside the boundaries of the isle. 

He slept but little, and in the first move- 
ment of the dawn sat up in bed. Why should 
he ever live in London, or any other fashiona- 
ble city, if this plan of marriage could be car- 
ried out? Surely, with this young wife, the 
island would be the best place for him. It 

270 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

might be possible to rent Sylvania Castle as he 
had formerly done — better still, to buy it. If 
life could offer him anything worth having it 
would be a home with Avice there on his 
native cliffs to the end of his days. 

As he sat thus thinking, and the daylight 
increased, he discerned, a short distance before 
him, a movement of something ghostly. His 
position was facing the window, and he found 
that by chance the looking-glass had swung 
itself vertical, so that what he saw was his own 
shape. The recognition startled him. The 
person he appeared was too grievously far, 
chronologically, in advance of the person he 
felt himself to be. Pierston did not care to 
regard the figure confronting him so mocking- 
ly. Its voice seemed to say, " There's tragedy 
hanging on to this!" But the question of age 
being pertinent he could not give the spectre 
up, and ultimately got out of bed under the 
weird fascination of the reflection. Whether 
he had overwalked himself lately, or what he 
had done, he knew not ; but never had he 
med so aged, by a score of years, as he was 
represented in the glass in that cold gray morn- 
ing light. While his soul was what it was, 
why should he have been encumbered with 

271 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

that withering carcass, without the ability to 
shift it off for another, as his ideal Beloved 
had so frequently done? 

By reason of her mother's illness Avice was 
now living in the house, and, on going down- 
stairs, he found that they were to breakfast 
en tete-a-tete. She was not then in the room, 
but she entered in the course of a few minutes. 
Pierston had already heard that the widow felt 
better this morning, and, elated by the pros- 
pect of sitting with Avice at this meal, he went 
forward to her joyously. As soon as she saw 
him in the full stroke of day from the window 
she started ; and he then remembered that it 
was their first meeting under the solar rays. 

She was so overcome that she turned and 
left the room as if she had forgotten some- 
thing ; when she re-entered she was visibly 
pale. She recovered herself, and apologized. 
She had been sitting up the night before the 
last, she said, and was not quite so well as 
usual. 

There may have been some truth in this ; 
but Pierston could not get over that first 
scared look of hers. It was enough to give 
daytime stability to his night views of a pos- 
sible tragedy lurking in this wedding project. 

272 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

He determined that, at any cost to his heart, 
there should be no misapprehension about him 
from this moment. 

" Miss Pierston," he said, as they sat down, 
" since it is well you should know all the truth 
before we go any further, that there may be 
no awkward discoveries afterwards, I am going 
to tell you something about myself — if you 
are not too distressed to hear it ?" 

" No — let me hear it." 

" I was once the lover of your mother, and 
wanted to marry her ; only she wouldn't, or 
rather couldn't, marry me." 

" Oh, how strange !" said the girl, looking 
from him to the breakfast things, and from the 
breakfast things to him. " Mother has never 
told me that. Yet, of course, you might have 
been. I mean, you are old enough." 

He took the remark as a satire she had not 
intended. " Oh yes — quite old enough," he 
said, grimly. " Almost too old." 

" Too old for mother ? How's that ?" 

" Because I belonged to your grandmother." 

" No ! How can that be ?" 

" I was her lover likewise. I should have 
married her if I had gone straight on instead 
of round the corner." 
s 273 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" But you couldn't have been, Mr. Pierston ! 
You are not old enough ! Why, how old are 
you ? You have never told me." 

" I am very old." 

"My mother's and my grandmother's!" said 
she, looking at him no longer as at a possible 
husband, but as a strange fossilized relic in 
human form. Pierston saw it, but, meaning 
to give up the game, he did not care to spare 
himself. 

" Your mother's and your grandmother's 
young man," he repeated. 

"And were you my great -grandmother's 
too ?" she asked, with an expectant interest 
in his case as a drama that overcame her per- 
sonal considerations for a moment. 

" No — not your great-grandmother's. Your 
imagination beats even my confessions! . . . 
But I am very old, as you see." 

" I did not know it !" said she, in an appalled 
murmur. " You do not look so ; and I thought 
that what you looked you were." 

"And you — you are very young," he con- 
tinued. 

A stillness followed, during which she sat in 
a troubled constraint, regarding him now and 
then with something in her open eyes and 

274 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

large pupils that might have been sympathy 
or nervousness. Pierston ate scarce any break- 
fast, and, rising abruptly from the table, said 
he would take a walk on the cliffs, as the 
morning was fine. 

He did so, proceeding along the northeast 
heights for nearly a mile. He had virtually 
given Avice up, but not formally. His in- 
tention had been to go back to the house in 
half an hour and pay a morning visit to the 
invalid ; but by not returning the plans of the 
previous evening might be allowed to lapse 
silently, as mere pourparlers that had come to 
nothing in the face of Avice's want of love 
for him. Pierston accordingly went straight 
along, and in the course of an hour was at his 
Budmouth lodgings. 

Nothing occurred till the evening to in- 
form him how his absence had been taken. 
Then a note arrived from Mrs. Pierston; 
it was written in pencil, evidently as she 
lay. 

" I am alarmed," she said, " at your going 
so suddenly. Avice seems to think she has 
offended you. She did not mean to do that, 
I am sure. It makes me dreadfully anxious! 
Will you send a line? Surely you will not 

275 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

desert us now — my heart is so set on my 
child's welfare?" 

" Desert you I won't," said Jocelyn. " It is 
too much like the original case. But I must 
let her desert me." 

On his return, with no other object than 
that of wishing Mrs. Pierston good-bye, he 
found her painfully agitated. She clasped his 
hand and wetted it with her tears. 

" Oh, don't be offended with her !" she cried. 
"She's young. We are one people — don't 
marry a kimberlin ! It will break my heart if 
you forsake her now ! Avice !" 

The girl came. " My manner was hasty 
and thoughtless this morning," she said, in a 
low voice. " Please pardon me. I wish to 
abide by my promise." 

Her mother, still tearful, again joined their 
hands ; and the engagement stood as before. 

Pierston went back to Budmouth, but dimly 
seeing how curiously, through his being a rich 
suitor, ideas of beneficence and reparation 
were retaining him in the course arranged by 
her mother, and urged by his own desire in 
the face of his understanding. 

276 



ON THE VERGE OF POSSESSION 

In anticipation of his marriage Pierston had 
taken a new red house of the approved Ken- 
sington pattern, with a new studio at the 
back as large as a mediaeval barn. Hither, in 
collusion with the elder Avice — whose health 
had mended somewhat — he invited mother 
and daughter to spend a week or two with 
him, thinking thereby to exercise on the lat- 
ter's imagination an influence which was not 
practicable while he was a guest at their 
house, and, by interesting his betrothed in 
the fitting and furnishing of this residence, to 
create in her an ambition to be its mistress. 

It was a pleasant, reposeful time to be in 
town. There was nobody to interrupt them 
in their proceedings, and, it being out of the 
season, the largest tradesmen were as atten- 
tive to their wants as if those firms had never 

before been honored with a single customer 

277 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

whom they really liked. Pierston and his 
guests, almost equally inexperienced — for the 
sculptor had nearly forgotten what knowledge 
of householding he had acquired earlier in life 
— could consider and practise thoroughly a 
species of skeleton - drill in receiving visitors 
when the pair should announce themselves as 
married and at home in the coming winter 
season. 

Avice was charming, even if a little cold. 
He congratulated himself yet again that time 
should have reserved for him this final chance 
for one of the line. She was somewhat like 
her mother, whom he had loved in the flesh, 
but she had the soul of her grandmother, 
whom he had loved in the spirit — and, for 
that matter, loved now. Only one criticism 
had he to pass upon his choice ; though in 
outward semblance her grandam idealized, she 
had not the first Avice's candor, but rather 
her mother's closeness. He never knew ex- 
actly what she was thinking and feeling. Yet 
he seemed to have such prescriptive rights in 
women of her blood that her occasional want 
of confidence did not deeply trouble him. 

It was one of those ripe and mellow after- 
noons that sometimes color London with their 

278 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

golden light at this time of the year, and pro- 
duce those marvellous sunset effects which, if 
they were not known to be made up of kitch- 
en coal-smoke and animal exhalations, would 
be rapturously applauded. Behind the per- 
pendicular, oblique, zigzagged, and curved 
zinc " tall-boys," that formed a gray pattern 
not unlike early Gothic numerals against the 
sky, the men and women on tops of omni- 
buses saw an irradiation of topaz hues, dark- 
ened here and there into richest russet. 

There had been a sharp shower during the 
afternoon, and Pierston — who had to take care 
of himself — had worn a pair of galoshes on his 
short walk in the street. He noiselessly en- 
tered the studio, inside which some gleams of 
the same mellow light had managed to creep, 
and where he guessed he should find his pro- 
spective wife and mother-in-law awaiting him 
with tea. But only Avice was there, seated 
beside the teapot of brown delf, which, as 
artists, they affected, her back being towards 
him. She was holding her handkerchief to 
her eyes, and he saw that she was weeping 
silently. 

In another moment he perceived th.it she 
was weeping over a book. By this time she 
T 279 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

had heard him, and came forward. He made 
it appear that he had not noticed her distress, 
and they discussed some arrangements of fur- 
niture. When he had taken a cup of tea she 
went away, leaving the book behind her. 

Pierston took it up. The volume was an 
old school-book — Stievenard's Lectures Fran- 
caises — with her name in it as a pupil at 
Sandbourne High-school, and date-markings 
denoting lessons taken at a comparatively re- 
cent time, for Avice had been but a novice 
as governess when he discovered her. 

For a school-girl — which she virtually was 
— to weep over a school-book was strange. 
Could she have been affected by some subject 
in the readings? Impossible. Pierston fell 
to thinking, and zest died for the process of 
furnishing, which he had undertaken so gayly. 
Somehow, the bloom was again disappearing 
from his approaching marriage. Yet he loved 
Avice more and more tenderly ; he feared 
sometimes that in the solicitousness of his 
affection he was spoiling her by indulging 
her every whim. 

He looked round the large and ambitious 
apartment, now becoming clouded with shades, 
out of which the white and cadaverous coun- 

280 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

tenances of his studies, casts, and other lum- 
ber peered meditatively at him, as if they 
were saying, "What are you going to do now, 
old boy?" They had never looked like that 
while standing in his past homely workshop, 
where all the real labors of his life had been 
carried out. What should a man of his age, 
who had not for years done anything to speak 
of — certainly not to add to his reputation as 
an artist — want with a new place like this? 
It was all because of the elect lady, and she 
apparently did not want him. 

Picrston did not observe anything further 
in Avice to cause him misgiving till one din- 
ner-time, a week later, towards the end of the 
visit. Then, as he sat himself between her 
and her mother at their limited table, he was 
struck with her nervousness, and was tempted 
to say, " Why are you troubled, my little dear- 
est ?" in tones which disclosed that he was as 
troubled as she. 

"Am I troubled?" she said, with a start, 
turning her gentle hazel eyes upon him. 
"Yes, I suppose I am. It is because I have 
received a letter — from an old friend." 

" You didn't show it to me," said her mother. 

"No— I tore it up." 

281 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



"Why?" 

" It was not necessary to keep it, so I de- 
stroyed it." 

Mrs. Pierston did not press her further on 
the subject, and Avice showed no disposition 
to continue it. They retired rather early, as 
they always did, but Pierston remained pacing 
about his studio a long while, musing on many 
things, not the least being the perception that 
to wed a woman may be by no means the 
same thing as to be united with her. The 
" old friend " of Avice's remark had sound- 
ed very much like " lover." Otherwise why 
should the letter have so greatly disturbed 
her? 

There seemed to be something uncanny, 
after all, about London in its relation to his 
contemplated marriage. When she had first 
come up she was easier with him than now. 
And yet his bringing her there had helped his 
cause ; the house had decidedly impressed her 
— almost overawed her ; and though he owned 
that by no law of nature or reason had her 
mother or himself any right to urge on Avice 
partnership with him against her inclination, 
he resolved to make the most of having her 
under his influence by getting the wedding 

282 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

details settled before she and her mother 
left. 

The next morning he proceeded to do this. 
When he encountered Avice there was a trace 
of apprehension on her face ; but he set that 
down to a fear that she had offended him the 
night before by her taciturnity. Directly he 
requested her mother, in Avice's presence, to 
get her to fix the day quite early, Mrs. Pier- 
ston became brighter and brisker. She, too, 
plainly had doubts about the wisdom of delay, 
and turning to her daughter said, " Now, my 
dear, do you hear ?" 

It was ultimately agreed that the widow 
and her daughter should go back in a day or 
two, to await Pierston's arrival on the wed- 
ding-eve, immediately after their return. 

In pursuance of the arrangement, Pierston 
found himself on the south shore of England 
in the gloom of the aforesaid evening, the isle, 
as he ' 1 across at it with his approach, 

being just discernible as a moping counte- 
nance, a creature sullen with a sense that he 

about to withdraw from its keeping the 
rarest object it had ever owned. lie had 

Lome alone, not to embarrass them, and had 

283 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

intended to halt a couple of hours in the 
neighboring seaport to give some orders relat- 
ing to the wedding, but the little railway train 
being in waiting to take him on, he proceeded 
with a natural impatience, resolving to do his 
business here by messenger from the isle. 

He passed the ruins of the Tudor castle and 
the long, featureless rib of grinding pebbles 
that screened off the outer sea, which could 
be heard lifting and dipping rhythmically in 
the wide vagueness of the Bay. At the un- 
der-hill island townlet of the Wells there were 
no flys, and, leaving his things to be brought 
on, as he often did, he climbed the eminence 
on foot. 

Half-way up the steepest part of the pass 
he saw in the dusk a figure pausing — the 
single person on the incline. Though it was 
too dark to identify faces, Pierston gathered 
from the way in which the halting stranger 
was supporting himself by the hand-rail, which 
here bordered the road to assist climbers, that 
the person was exhausted. 

"Anything the matter?" he said. 

"Oh no — not much," was returned by the 
other. " But it is steep just here." 

The accent was not quite that of an Eng- 

284 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

lishman, and struck him as hailing from one 
of the Channel Islands. " Can't I help you 
up to the top?" he said, for the voice, though 
that of a young man, seemed faint and 
shaken. 

" No, thank you. I have been ill ; but I 
thought I was all right again, and, as the night 
was fine, I walked into the island by the road. 
It turned out to be rather too much for me, 
as there is some weakness left still, and this 
stiff incline brought it out." 

" Naturally. You'd better take hold of my 
arm — at any rate, to the brow here." 

Thus pressed, the stranger did so, and they 
went on towards the ridge, till, reaching the 
lime -kiln standing there, the stranger aban- 
doned his hold, saying, " Thank you for your 
assistance, sir. Good-night." 

" I don't think I recognize your voice as a 
native's?" 

" No, it is not. I am a Jersey man. Good- 
night, sir." 

u Good-night, if you are sure you can get on. 
Here, take this stick — it is no use to me." 
Saying which, I n put his walking-stick 

into the young man's hand. 

" Thank you again. 1 dial] be quite re- 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

covered when I have rested a minute or two. 
Don't let me detain you, please." 

The stranger, as he spoke, turned his face 
towards the south, where the Beal light had 
just come into view, and stood regarding it 
with an obstinate fixity. As he evidently 
wished to be left to himself, Jocelyn went on, 
and troubled no more about him, though the 
desire of the young man to be rid of his com- 
pany, after accepting his walking-stick and his 
arm, had come with a suddenness that was 
almost emotional ; and impressionable as Joce- 
lyn was, no less now than in youth, he was 
saddened for a minute by the sense that there 
were people in the world who did not like 
even his sympathy. 

However, a pleasure which obliterated all 
this arose when Pierston drew near to the 
house that was likely to be his dear home on 
all future visits to the isle, perhaps even his 
permanent home as he grew older and the as- 
sociations of his youth reasserted themselves. 
It had been, too, his father's house, the house 
in which he was born, and he amused his fancy 
with plans for its enlargement under the super- 
vision of Avice and himself. It was a still 
greater pleasure to behold a tall and shapely 

286 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

figure standing against the light of the open 
door and presumably awaiting him. 

Avice, who it was, gave a little jump when 
she recognized him, but dutifully allowed him 
to kiss her when he reached her side ; though 
her nervousness was only too apparent, and 
was like a child's towards a parent who may 
prove stern. 

" How dear of you to guess that I might 
come on at once instead of later!" says Joce- 
lyn. " Well, if I had stayed in the town to 
go to the shops, and so on, I could not have 
got here till the last train. How is mother — 
our mother, as I shall call her soon?" 

Avice said that her mother had not been so 
well, she feared not nearly so well, since her 
return from London, so that she was obliged 
to keep her room. The visit had perhaps 
been too much for her. " But she will not 
acknowledge that she is much weaker, because 
she will not disturb my happiness." 

Jocelyn was in a mood to let trifles of man- 
ner pass, and he took no notice of the effort 
which had accompanied the last word. They 
went up-stairs to Mrs. Pierston, whose obvious 
relief and thankfulness at sight of him were 
grateful to her visitor. 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" I am so, oh, so glad you are come !" she 
said, huskily, as she held out her thin hand 
and stifled a sob. " I have been so — " 

She could get no further for a moment, and 
Avice turned away weeping, and abruptly left 
the room. 

" I have so set my heart on this," Mrs. Pier- 
ston went on, " that I have not been able to 
sleep of late, for I have feared I might drop 
off suddenly before she is yours, and lose the 
comfort of seeing you actually united. Your 
being so kind to me in old times has made me 
so sure that she will find a good husband in 
you that I am over-anxious, I know. Indeed, 
I have not liked to let her know quite how 
anxious I am." 

Thus they talked till Jocelyn bade her 
good-night, it being noticeable that Mrs. Pier- 
ston, chastened by her illness, maintained no 
longer any reserve on her gladness to acquire 
him as her son - in - law ; and her feelings de- 
stroyed any remaining scruples he might have 
had from perceiving that Avice's consent was 
rather an obedience than a desire. As he 
went down -stairs, and found Avice awaiting 
his descent, he wondered if anything had oc- 
curred here during his absence to give Mrs. 

288 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

Pierston new uneasiness about the marriage, 
but it was an inquiry he could not address to 
a girl whose actions could alone be the cause 
of such uneasiness. 

He looked round for her as he supped, but 
though she had come into the room with him 
she was not there now. He remembered her 
telling him that she had had supper with her 
mother, and Jocelyn sat on quietly musing 
and sipping his wine for something near half 
an hour. Wondering then for the first time 
what had become of her, he rose and went to 
the door. Avice was quite near him, after all 
— only standing at the front door, as she had 
been doing when he came, looking into the 
light of the full moon which had risen since 
his arrival. His sudden opening of the dining- 
room door seemed to agitate her. 

" What is it, dear ?" he asked. 

"As mother is much better and doesn't 
want me, I ought to go and see somebody I 
promised to take a parcel to — I feel I ought. 
And yet, as you have just come to see me — I 
suppose you don't approve of my going out 
while you are here?" 

" Who is the person ?" 

"Somebody down that way," she said, in- 
t 289 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

definitely. It is not very far off. I am not 
afraid — I go out often by myself at night 
hereabout." 

He reassured her good-humoredly. " If you 
really wish to go, my dear, of course I don't 
object. I have no authority to do that till 
to-morrow, and you know that if I had it I 
shouldn't use it." 

" Oh, but you have ! Mother being an in- 
valid, you are in her place, apart from — to- 
morrow." 

" Nonsense, darling. Run across to your 
friend's house by all means if you want to." 

" And you'll be here when I come in?" 

" No, I am going down to the inn to see if 
my things are brought up." 

" But hasn't mother asked you to stay 
here ? The spare room was got ready for 
you. . . . Dear me, I am afraid I ought to 
have told you !" 

" She did ask me. But I have some things 
coming, directed to the inn, and I had better 
be there. So I'll wish you good-night, though 
it is not late. I will come in quite early to- 
morrow, to inquire how your mother is going 
on and to wish you good-morning. You wilJ 

be back again quickly this evening?" 

290^ 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

"Oh yes." 

"And I needn't go with you for com- 
pany ? 

"Oh no, thank you. It is no distance." 

Pierston then departed, thinking how en- 
tirely her manner was that of one to whom a 
question of doing anything was a question of 
permission and not of judgment. He had no 
sooner gone than Avice took a parcel from a 
cupboard, put on her hat and cloak, and follow- 
ing by the way he had taken till she reached 
the entrance to Sylvania Castle, there stood 
still. She could hear Pierston's footsteps pass- 
ing down East Quarriers to the inn ; but she 
went no farther in that direction. Turning 
into the lane on the right, of which mention 
has so often been made, she went quickly past 
the last cottage, and, having entered the gorge 
beyond, she clambered into the ruin of the Red 
King's or ]>ow-and-Arrow Castle, standing as a 
square black mass against the moonlit, indefi- 
nite sea. 



VI 

THE WELL-BELOVED IS — WHERE? 

Mrs. Pierston passed a restless night, but 
this she let nobody know ; nor, what was pain- 
fully evident to herself, that her prostration 
was increased by anxiety and suspense about 
the wedding on which she had too much set 
her heart. 

During the very brief space in which she 
dozed Avice came into her room. As it was 
not infrequent for her daughter to look in 
upon her thus, she took little notice, merely 
saying, to assure the girl, " I am better, dear. 
Don't come in again. Get to sleep yourself." 

The mother, however, went thinking anew. 
She had no apprehensions about this mar- 
riage. She felt perfectly sure that it was the 
best thing she could do for her girl. Not a 
young woman on the island but was envying 
Avice at that moment; for Jocelyn was ab- 
surdly young for three -score, a good-looking 

292 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

man, one whose history was generally known 
here; as also were the exact figures of the fort- 
une he had inherited from his father, and the 
social standing he could claim — a standing, 
however, which that fortune would not have 
been large enough to procure unassisted by 
his reputation in his art. 

But Avice had been weak enough, as her 
mother knew, to indulge in fancies for local 
youths from time to time, and Mrs. Pierston 
could not help congratulating herself that her 
daughter had been so docile in the circum- 
stances. Yet to every one, except, perhaps, 
Avice herself, Jocelyn was the most romantic 
of lovers. Indeed, was there ever such a ro- 
mance as that man embodied in his relations 
to her house ? Rejecting the first Avice, the 
second had rejected him, and to rally to the 
third with final achievement was an artistic 
and tender finish to which it was ungrateful 
in anybody to be blind. 

The widow thought that the second Avice 
might probably not have rejected Pierston on 
that occasion in the London studio so many 
years ago if destiny had not arranged that she 
should have been secretly united to another 
when the proposing moment came. 

293 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

But what had come was best. " My God!" 
she said at times that night, " to think my 
aim in writing to him should be fulfilling it- 
self like this !" 

When all was right and done, what a success 
upon the whole her life would have been ! She 
who had begun her career as a cottage-girl, a 
small quarry-owner's daughter, had sunk so 
low as to the position of laundress, had en- 
gaged in various menial occupations, had made 
an unhappy marriage for love — which had, how- 
ever, in the long run, thanks to Jocelyn's man- 
agement, much improved her position — was at 
last to see her daughter secure what she herself 
had just missed securing, and established in a 
home of affluence and refinement. 

Thus the sick woman excited herself as 
the hours went on. At last, in her tense- 
ness, it seemed to her that the time had 
already come at which the household was 
stirring, and fancied she heard conversation 
in her daughter's room. But she found that 
it was only five o'clock, and not yet daylight. 
Her state was such that she could see the 
hangings of the bed tremble with her tremors. 
She had declared overnight that she did not 
require any one to sit up with her, but she 

294 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

now rang a little hand-bell, and in a few min- 
utes a nurse appeared — Ruth Stockwool, an 
island woman and a neighbor, whom Mrs. 
Pierston knew well, and who knew all Mrs. 
Pierston's history. 

" I am so nervous that I can't stay by my- 
self," said the widow. " And I thought I 
heard Becky dressing Miss Avice in her wed- 
ding things." 

" Oh no — not yet, ma'am. There's nobody 
up. But I'll get you something." 

When Mrs. Pierston had taken a little nour- 
ishment she went on : "I can't help frighten- 
ing myself with thoughts that she won't marry 
him. You see, he is older than Avice." 

"Yes, he is," said her neighbor. "But I 
don't see how anything can hender the wed- 
den now." 

"Avice, you know, had fancies; at least 
one fancy for another man — a young fellow 
of five -and -twenty. And she's been very 
secret and odd about it. I wish she had 
raved and cried and had it out ; but she's 
been quite the other way. I know she's fond 
of him still." 

" What — that young Frenchman, Mr. Le- 
verre o' Sandbourne ? I've heard a little of it. 

295 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

But I should say there wadden much between 
'em." 

" I don't think there was. But I've a sort 
of conviction that she saw him last night. I 
believe it was only to bid him good-bye and 
return him some books he had given her ; but 
I wish she had never known him ; he is rather 
an excitable, impulsive young man, and he 
might make mischief. He isn't a Frenchman, 
though he has lived in France. His father 
was a Jersey gentleman, and on his becoming 
a widower he married as his second wife a na- 
tive of this very island. That's mainly why 
the young man is so at home in these parts." 

" Ah — now I follow 'ee. She was a Ben- 
comb — his stepmother; I heard something 
about her years ago." 

" Yes ; her father had the biggest stone- 
trade on the island at one time ; but the name 
is forgotten here now. He retired years be- 
fore I was born. However, mother used to 
tell me that she was a handsome young wom- 
an, who tried to catch Mr. Pierston when he 
was a young man, and scandalized herself a 
bit with him. She went off abroad with her 
father, who had made a fortune here ; but 
when he got over there he lost it nearly all in 

296 




A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

some way. Years after she married this Jer- 
sey man, Mr. Leverre, who had been fond of 
her as a girl, and she brought up his child as 
her own." 

Mrs. Pierston paused, but as Ruth did not 
ask any question she presently resumed her 
self-relieving murmur : 

" How Miss Avice got to know the young 
man was in this way : When Mrs. Leverre's 
husband died she came from Jersey to live at 
Sandbourne, and made it her business one 
day to cross over to this place to make in- 
quiries about Mr. Jocelyn Pierston. As my 
name was Pierston, she called upon me with 
her son, and so Avice and he got acquainted. 
When she went back to Sandbourne to the 
finishing -school they kept up the acquaint- 
ance in secret. He taught French somewhere 
there, and does still, I believe." 

" Well, I hope she'll forget en. He idden 
good enough." 

" I hope so — I hope so. . . . Now, I'll try to 
get a little nap." 

Ruth Stockwool went back to her room, 
where, finding it would not be necessary to 
get up for another hour, she lay down again 
and soon slept. Her bed was close to the 

297 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

staircase, from which it was divided by a lath 
partition only, and her consciousness either 
was or seemed to be aroused by light brush- 
ing touches on the outside of the partition, as 
of fingers feeling the way down-stairs in the 
dark. The slight noise passed, and in a few- 
seconds she dreamed, or fancied she could 
hear, the unfastening of the back door. 

She had nearly sunk into another sound 
sleep when precisely the same phenomena 
were repeated — fingers brushing along the 
wall close to her head, down, downward, the 
soft opening of the door, its close, and silence 
again. 

She now became clearly awake. The repe- 
tition of the process had made the whole mat- 
ter a singular one. Early as it was, the first 
sounds might have been those of the house- 
maid descending, though why she should have 
come down so stealthily and in the dark did 
not make itself clear. But the second per- 
formance was inexplicable. Ruth got out of 
bed and lifted her blind. The dawn was 
hardly yet pink, and the light from the sand- 
bank was not yet extinguished. But the 
bushes of euonymus against the white palings 
of the front garden could be seen, also the 

298 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

light surface of the road winding away like a 
ribbon to the north entrance of Sylvania Cas- 
tle, thence round to the village, the cliffs, and 
the cove behind. Upon the road two dark 
figures could just be discerned, one a little 
way behind the other, but overtaking and 
joining the foremost as Ruth looked. Af- 
ter all, they might be quarriers or lighthouse- 
keepers from the south of the island, or fisher- 
men just landed from a night's work. There 
being nothing to connect them with the noises 
she had heard indoors, she dismissed the whole 
subject, and went to bed again. 

Jocelyn had promised to pay an early visit 
to ascertain the state of Mrs. Pierston's health 
after her night's rest, her precarious condition 
being more obvious to him than to Avice, and 
making him a little anxious. Subsequent 
events caused him to remember that while he 
was dressing he casually observed two or three 
boatmen standing near the cliff beyond the 
village, and apparently watching with deep 
interest what seemed to be a boat far away 
towards the opposite shore of South Wessex. 
At half-past eight he came from the door of 
the inn and went straight to Mrs. Pierston's. 

299 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

On approaching, he discovered that a strange 
expression which seemed to hang about the 
house- front that morning was more than a 
fancy, the gate, door, and two windows being 
open, though the blinds of other windows were 
not drawn up, the whole lending a vacant, 
dazed look to the domicile, as of a person gap- 
ing in sudden stultification. Nobody answered 
his knock, and walking into the dining-room 
he found that no breakfast had been laid. His 
flashing thought was, " Mrs. Pierston is dead." 

While standing in the room somebody came 
down -stairs, and Jocelyn encountered Ruth 
Stockwool, an open letter fluttering in her 
hand. 

" Oh, Mr. Pierston, Mr. Pierston ! The Lord- 
a-Lord ! M 

" What ? Mrs. Pierston—" 

" No, no ! Miss Avice ! She is gone ! — yes 
— gone ! Read ye this, sir. It was left in her 
bedroom, and we be fairly gallied out of our 
senses !" 

He took the letter and confusedly beheld 
that it was in two handwritings, the first sec- 
tion being in Avice's : 

" My dear Mother, — How ever will you forgive 
me for what I have done ! So deceitful as it seems. 

300 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

And yet till this night I had no idea of deceiving either 
you or Mr. Pierston. 

" Last night at ten o'clock I went out, as you may 
have guessed, to see Mr. Leverre for the last time, 
and to give him back his books, letters, and little 
presents to me. I went only a few steps — to Bow- 
and-Arrow Castle, where we met, as we had agreed to 
do, since he could not call. When I reached the place 
I found him there waiting, but quite ill. He had 
been unwell at his mother's house for some days, and 
had been obliged to stay in bed, but he had got up 
on purpose to come and bid me good-bye. The over- 
exertion of the journey upset him, and though we 
stayed and stayed till twelve o'clock, he felt quite 
unable to go back home — unable, indeed, to move 
more than a few yards. I had tried so hard not to 
love him any longer, but I loved him so now that I 
could not desert him and leave him out there to catch 
his death. So I helped him — nearly carrying him — 
on and on to our door, and then round to the back. 
Here he got a little better, and as he could not stay 
there, and everybody was now asleep, I helped him 
up-stairs into the room we had prepared for Mr. Pier- 
ston if he should have wanted one. I got him into 
bed, and then fetched some brandy and a little of 
your tonic. Did you see me come into your room 
for it, or were you asleep ? 

" I sat by him all night. He improved slowly, and 
we talked over what we had better do. I felt that, 
though I had intended to give him up, I could not 
now becomingly marry any other man, and that I 

301 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

ought to marry him. We decided to do it at once, 
before anybody could hinder us. So we came down 
before it was light, and have gone away to get the 
ceremony solemnized. 

" Tell Mr. Pierston it was not premeditated, but the 
result of an accident. I am sincerely sorry to have 
treated him with what he will think unfairness, but 
though I did not love him I meant to obey you and 
marry him. But God sent this necessity of my hav- 
ing to give shelter to my love, to prevent, I think, 
my doing what I am now convinced would have been 
wrong. 

" Ever your loving daughter, AviCE." 

The second was in a man's hand : 

" Dear Mother (as you will soon be to me), — Avice 
has clearly explained above how it happened that I 
have not been able to give her up to Mr. Pierston. I 
think I should have died if I had not accepted the 
hospitality of a room in your house this night and 
your daughter's tender nursing through the dark, 
dreary hours. We love each other beyond expres- 
sion, and it is obvious that, if we are human, we can- 
not resist marrying now, in spite of friends' wishes. 
Will you please send the note lying beside this to my 
mother ? It is merely to explain what I have done. 
" Yours, with warmest regard, 

" Henri Leverre." 

Jocelyn turned away and looked out of the 

window. 

302 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

" Mrs. Pierston thought she heard some talk- 
ing in the night, but of course she put it down 
to fancy. And she remembers Miss Avice 
coming into her room at one o'clock in the 
morning, and going to the table where the 
medicine was standing. A sly girl — all the 
time her young man within a yard or two, in 
the very room, and a -using the very clean 
sheets that you, sir, were to have used ! They 
are our best linen ones, got up beautiful, and 
a- kept wi' rosemary. Really, sir, one would 
say you stayed out o' your chammer o' pur- 
pose to oblige the young man with a bed !" 

" Don't blame them — don't blame them !" 
said Jocelyn, in an even and characterless 
voice. " Don't blame her, particularly. She 
didn't make the circumstances. I did. . . . 
It was how I served her grandmother. . . . 
Well, she's gone ! You needn't make a mys- 
tery of it. Tell it to all the island ; say that 
a man came to marry a wife, and didn't find 
her at home. Tell everybody that she's run 
away. It must be known sooner or later." 

One of the servants said, after waiting a few 
moments, " We sha'n't do that, sir." 

"Oh! Why won't you?" 

"We liked her too well, with all her faults." 

303 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Ah — did you?" said he, and he sighed. 
He perceived that the younger maids were 
secretly on Avice's side. 

" How does her mother bear it ?" Jocelyn 
asked. " Is she awake ?" 

Mrs. Pierston had hardly slept, and, having 
learned the tidings inadvertently, became so 
distracted and incoherent as to be like a per- 
son in a delirium ; till, a few moments before 
he arrived, all her excitement ceased, and she 
lay in a weak, quiet silence. 

" Let me go up," Pierston said. "And send 
for the doctor." 

Passing Avice's chamber, he perceived that 
the little bed had not been slept on. At the 
door of the spare room he looked in. In one 
corner stood a walking-stick — his own. 

"Where did that come from?" 

" We found it there, sir." 

" Ah, yes — I gave it to him. Tis like me 
to play another's game!" 

It was the last spurt of bitterness that Joce- 
lyn let escape him. He went on towards Mrs. 
Pierston's room, preceded by the servant. 

" Mr. Pierston has come, ma'am," he heard 
her say to the invalid. But as the latter took 
no notice the woman rushed forward to the 

304 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

bed. "What has happened to her, Mr. Pier- 
ston ? Oh, what do it mean ?" 

Avice the Second was lying placidly in the 
position in which the nurse had left her ; but 
no breath came from her lips, and a rigidity 
of feature was accompanied by the precise 
expression which had characterized her face 
when Pierston had her as a girl in his stu- 
dio. He saw that it was death, though she 
appeared to have breathed her last only a few 
moments before. 

Ruth Stockwool's composure deserted her. 
" Tis the shock of rinding Miss Avice gone 
that has done it !" she cried. " She has killed 
her mother!" 

" Don't say such a terrible thing !" ex- 
claimed Jocelyn. 

" But she ought to have obeyed her mother 
— a good mother as she was ! How she had 
set her heart upon the wedding, poor soul ; 
and wc couldn't help her knowing what had 
happened ! Oh, how ungrateful young folk 
be ! That girl will rue this morning's work !" 

" We must get the doctor," said Pierston, 
mechanically, hastening from the room. 

When the local practitioner came he merely 
confirmed their own verdict, and thought her 
u 305 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

death had undoubtedly been hastened by the 
shock of the ill news upon a feeble heart, fol- 
lowing a long strain of anxiety about the wed- 
ding. He did not consider that an inquest 
would be necessary. 

The two shadowy figures seen through the 
gray gauzes of the morning by Ruth, five 
hours before this time, had gone on to the 
open place by the north entrance of Sylvania 
Castle, where the lane to the ruins of the old 
castle branched off. A listener would not 
have gathered that a single word passed be- 
tween them. The man walked with difficulty, 
supported by the woman. At this spot they 
stopped and kissed each other a long while. 

"We ought to walk all the way to Bud- 
mouth, if we wish not to be discovered," he 
said, sadly. " And I can't even get across 
the island, even by your help, darling. It is 
two miles to the foot of the hill." 

She, who was trembling, tried to speak con- 
solingly : 

" If you could walk we should have to go 
down the Street of Wells, where perhaps 
somebody would know me. Now, if we get 
below here to the Cove, can't we push off one 

306 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

of the little boats I saw there last night, and 
paddle along close to the shore till we get to 
the north side? Then we can walk across to 
the station very well. It is quite calm, and as 
the tide sets in that direction it will take us 
along of itself, without much rowing. I've 
often got round in a boat that way." 

This seemed to be the only plan that offered, 
and abandoning the straight road they wound 
down the defile spanned farther on by the old 
castle arch, and forming the original fosse of 
the fortress. 

The stroke of their own footsteps, lightly as 
these fell, was flapped back to them with im- 
pertinent gratuitousness by the vertical faces 
of the rock, so still was everything around. A 
little farther, and they emerged upon the open 
ledge of the lower tier of cliffs, to the right be- 
ing the sloping pathway leading down to the 
secluded creek at their base — the single prac- 
ticable spot of exit from or entrance to the 
isle on this side by a sea-going craft, once an 
active wharf, whence many a fine public build- 
ing had sailed — including St. Paul's Cathedral. 

The timorous shadowy shapes descended 
the footway, one at least of them knowing the 
place so well that she found it scarcely neces- 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



sary to guide herself down by touching the 
natural wall of stone on her right hand, as her 
companion did. Thus, with quick suspensive 
breathings they arrived at the bottom, and 
trod the few yards of shingle which, on the 
forbidding shore hereabout, could be found at 
this spot alone. It was so solitary as to be 
unvisited often for four-and-twenty hours by 
a living soul. Upon the confined beach were 
drawn up two or three fishing-lerrets, and a 
couple of smaller ones, beside them being a 
rough slipway for launching, and a boat-house 
of tarred boards. The two lovers united their 
strength to push the smallest of the boats 
down the slope, and floating it they scrambled 
in. 

The girl broke the silence by asking, 
" Where are the oars?" 

He felt about the boat, but could find none. 
" I forgot to look for the oars !" he said. 

" They are locked in the boat-house, I sup- 
pose. Now we can only steer and trust to the 
current !" 

The currents here were of a complicated 
kind. It was true, as the girl had said, that the 
tide ran round the north, but at a special mo- 
ment in every flood there set in along the 

308 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

shore a narrow reflux, contrary to the general 
outer flow, called " The Southern " by the 
local sailors. It was produced by the pecul- 
iar curves of coast lying east and west of 
the Beal ; these bent southward in two back 
streams the up-Channel flow on each side of the 
peninsula, which two streams united outside 
the Beal, and there met the direct tidal flow, 
the confluence of the three currents making 
the surface of the sea at this point to boil like 
a pot, even in calmest weather. The disturbed 
area, as is well known, is called the Race. 

Thus, although the outer sea was now run- 
ning northward to the roadstead and the main- 
land of Wessex, " The Southern " ran in full 
force towards the Beal and the Race beyond. 
It caught the lovers' hapless boat in a few mo- 
ments, and, unable to row across it — mere riv- 
er's width that it was — they beheld the gray 
rocks near them, and the grim wrinkled fore- 
head of the isle above, sliding away northward. 

They gazed helplessly at each other, though, 
in the long-living faith of youth, without dis- 
tinct fear. The undulations increased in mag- 
nitude and swung them higher and lower. 
The boat rocked, received a smart slap of the 
waves now and then, and wheeled round, so 

309 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

that the light -ship which stolidly winked at 
them from the quicksand, the single object 
which told them of their bearings, was some- 
times on their right hand and sometimes on 
their left. Nevertheless, they could always 
discern from it that their course, whether 
stemward or sternward, was steadily south. 

A bright idea occurred to the young man. 
He pulled out his handkerchief and, striking 
a light, set it on fire. She gave him hers, and 
he made that flare up also. The only avail- 
able fuel left was the small umbrella the girl 
had brought ; this was also kindled, in an open- 
ed state, and he held it up by the stem till it 
was consumed. 

The light-ship had loomed quite large by 
this time, and a few minutes after they had 
burned the handkerchiefs and umbrella a col- 
ored flame replied to them from the vessel. 
They flung their arms around each other. 

" I knew we shouldn't be drowned !" said 
Avice, hysterically. 

" I thought we shouldn't too," said he. 

With the appearance of day a boat put off 
to their assistance, and they were towed tow- 
ards the heavy red hulk with the large white 
letters on its side. 

310 



VII 

AN OLD TABERNACLE IN A NEW ASPECT 

The October day thickened into dusk, and 
Jocelyn sat musing beside the corpse of Mrs. 
Pierston. Avice having gone away, nobody 
knew whither, he had acted as the nearest 
friend of the family, and attended as well as 
he could to the sombre duties necessitated by 
her mother's decease. It was doubtful, indeed, 
if anybody else were in a position to do so. 
Of Avice the Second's two brothers, one had 
been drowned at sea, and the other had emi- 
grated, while her only child besides the present 
Avice had died in infancy. As for her friends, 
she had become so absorbed in her ambitious 
and nearly accomplished design of marrying 
her daughter to Jocelyn, that she had gradually 
completed that estrangement between herself 
and the other islanders which had been begun 
SO lor is when, a young woman, she had 

herself been asked by Pierston to marry him. 

311 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

On her tantalizing inability to accept the 
honor offered, she and her husband had been 
set up in a matter-of-fact business in the stone- 
trade by her patron, but that unforgettable 
request in the London studio had made her 
feel ever since a refined kinship with sculpture, 
and a proportionate aloofness from mere quar- 
rying, which was, perhaps, no more than a 
venial weakness in Avice the Second. Her 
daughter's objection to Jocelyn she could 
never understand. To her own eye he was no 
older than when he had proposed to her. 

As he sat darkling here, the ghostly outlines 
of former shapes taken by his Love came 
round their sister, the unconscious corpse, con- 
fronting him from the wall in sad array, like 
the pictured Trojan women beheld by ^Eneas 
on the walls of Carthage. Many of them he 
had idealized in bust and in figure from time 
to time, but it was not as such that he remem- 
bered and reanimated them now ; rather was it 
in all their natural circumstances, weaknesses, 
and stains. And then as he came to himself 
their voices grew fainter ; they had all gone off 
on their different careers, and he was left here 
alone. 

The probable ridicule that would result to 

312 



^ A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

him from the events of the day he did not 
mind in itself at all. But he would fain have 
removed the misapprehensions on which it 
would be based. That, however, was impos- 
sible. Nobody would ever know the truth 
about him — what it was he had sought that 
had so eluded, tantalized, and escaped him ; 
what it was that had led him such a dance, and 
had at last, as he believed just now, in the fresh- 
ness of his loss, been discovered in the girl who 
had left him. It was not the flesh; he had 
never knelt low to that Not a womarTiTT the 
world had been wrecked by him, though he 
had been impassioned by so many. Nobody 
wouldj^uessJJieJiirtlier sentiment— thej:ordial 
loving-kindness — which had lain behind what 
had. see med to him the enraptured fulfilment 
of a pleasing destiny postponed for To rty yea rs. 
His attractiorTto thethird Avice would be re- 
garded by the world as the selfish designs of 
in elderly man on a maid. 

I Us life seemed no longer a professional 
man's experience, but a ghost story; and 
he would fain have vanished from his haunts 
on this critical afternoon, as the rest had 
done. He desired to sleep away his tenden- 
cies, to make something happen which would 

313 



THE WELL-BELOVED 



put an end to his bondag e to__beaut^_in_J;he 
ideal. 

So he sat on till it was quite dark and a 
light was brought. There was a chilly wind 
blowing outside, and the light -ship on the 
quicksand afar looked harassed and forlorn. 
The haggard solitude was broken by a ring at 
the door. 

Pierston heard a voice below, the accents 
of a woman. They had a ground quality of 
familiarity, a superficial articulation of strange- 
ness. Only one person in all his experience 
had ever possessed precisely those tones; rich, 
as if they had once been powerful. Explana- 
tions seemed to be asked for and given, and 
in a minute he was informed that a lady was 
down-stairs whom perhaps he would like to 
see. 

"Who is the lady?" Jocelyn asked. 

The servant hesitated a little. " Mrs. Le- 
verre — the mother of the — young gentleman 
Miss Avice has run off with." 

" Yes — I'll see her," said Pierston. 

He covered the face of the dead Avice, and 
descended. " Leverre," he said to himself. 
His ears had known that name before to-day. 
It was the name those travelling Americans he 

3*4 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

had met in Rome gave the woman he supposed 
might be Marcia Bencomb. 

A sudden adjusting light burst upon many 
familiar things at that moment. He found 
the visitor in the drawing-room, standing up, 
veiled, the carriage which had brought her be- 
ing in waiting at the door. By the dim light 
he could see nothing of her features in such 
circumstances. 

"Mr. Pierston?" 

" I am Mr. Pierston." 

" You represent the late Mrs. Pierston ?" 

" I do — though I am not one of the family." 

" I know it. ... I am Marcia — after forty 
years." 

" I was divining as much, Marcia. May the 
lines have fallen to you in pleasant places since 
we last met! But, of all moments of my life, 
why do you choose to hunt me up now?" 

"Why — I am the stepmother and only rela- 
tion of the young man your bride eloped with 
this morning." 

11 1 was just guessing that, too, as I came 
down-stairs. But — " 

"And I am naturally making inquiries." 

"Yes. Let us take it quietly and shut the 
door." 

315 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

Marcia sat down. And he learned that the 
conjunction of old things and new was no acci- 
dent. What Mrs. Pierston had discussed with 

i 
her nurse and neighbor as vague intelligence 

was now revealed to Jocelyn at first hand by 
Marcia herself ; how, many years after their 
separation, and when she was left poor by the 
death of her impoverished father, she had be- 
come the wife of that bygone Jersey lover of 
hers, who wanted a tender nurse and mother 
for the infant left him by his first wife recently 
deceased; how he had died a few years later, 
leaving her with the boy, whom she had 
brought up at St. Heliers and in Paris, educat- 
ing him as well as she could with her limited 
means, till he became the French master at a 
school in Sandbourne; and how, a year ago, 
she and her son had got to know Mrs. Pierston 
and her daughter on their visit to the island, 
"to ascertain," she added, more deliberately, 
" not entirely for sentimental reasons, what 
had become of the man with whom I eloped 
in the first flush of my young womanhood, and 
only missed marrying by my own will." 

Pierston bowed. 

"Well, that was how the acquaintance be- 
tween the children began, and their passionate 

316 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

attachment to each other." She detailed how 
Avice had induced her mother to let her take 
lessons in French of young Leverre, rendering 
their meetings easy. Marcia had never thought 
of hindering their intimacy, for in her recent 
years of affliction she had acquired a new in- 
terest in the name she had refused to take in 
her purse-proud young womanhood ; and it 
was not until she knew how determined Mrs. 
Pierston was to make her daughter Jocelyn's 
wife that she had objected to her son's ac- 
quaintance with Avice. But it was too late to 
hinder what had been begun. He had lately 
been ill, and she had been frightened by his 
not returning home the night before. The 
note she had received from him that day had 
only informed her that Avice and himself had 
gone to be married immediately — whither she 
did not know. 

"What do you mean to do?" she asked. 
" I do nothing: there is nothing to be done. 
... It is how I served her grandmother — one 
of Time's revenges." 

" Served her so for me?" 
" Yes. Now she me for your son." 
Marcia paused a long while thinking that 
over, till, arousing herself, she resumed : " But 

317 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

can't we inquire which way they went out of 
the island, or gather some particulars about 
them?" 

" Ay — yes. We will." 

And Pierston found himself, as in a dream, 
walking beside Marcia along the road in their 
common quest. He discovered that almost 
every one of the neighboring inhabitants knew 
more about the lovers than he did himself. 

At the corner some men were engaged in 
conversation on the occurrence. It was allu- 
sive only, but, knowing the dialect, Pierston 
and Marcia gathered its import easily. As 
soon as it had got light that morning one of 
the boats was discovered missing from the 
creek below, and when the flight of the lovers 
was made known it was inferred that they 
were the culprits. 

Unconsciously Pierston turned in the direc- 
tion of the creek, without regarding whether 
Marcia followed him, and though it was darker 
than when Avice and Leverre had descended 
in the morning he pursued his way down the 
incline till he reached the water-side. 

" Is that you, Jocelyn?" 

The inquiry came from Marcia. She was 
behind him, about half-way down. 

318 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

"Yes," he said, noticing that it was the 
first time she had called him by his Christian 
name. 

" I can't see where you are, and I am afraid 
to follow." 

Afraid to follow. How strangely that altered 
his conception of her ! Till this moment she 
had stood in his mind as the imperious, in- 
vincible Marcia of old. There was a strange 
pathos in this revelation. He went back and 
felt for her hand. " I'll lead you down," he 
said. And he did so. 

They looked out upon the sea and the light- 
ship, shining as if it had quite forgotten all 
about the fugitives. " I am so uneasy," said 
Marcia. " Do you think they got safely to 
land?" 

"Yes," replied some one other than Jocelyn. 
It was a boatman smoking in the shadow of 
the boat-house. He informed her that they 
were picked up by the light -ship men, and 
afterwards, at their request, taken across to 
the opposite shore, where they landed, pro- 
ceeding thence on foot to the nearest railway 
station and entering the train for London. 
This intelligence had reached the island about 
an hour before. 

319 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"They'll be married to-morrow morning!" 
said Marcia. 

" So much the better. Don't regret it, 
Marcia. He shall not lose by it. I have no 
relation in the world except some twentieth 
cousins in this isle, of whom her father was 
one, and I'll take steps at once to make her a 
good match for him. As for me ... I have 
lived a day too long!" 



_, 



VIII 
"alas for this gray shadow, once a man!" 

In the mo nth o f November which followed, 
Pierston was lying dangerously ill of a fever at 
his house in London. 

The funeral of the second Avice had hap- 
pened to be on one of those drenching after- 
noons of the autumn when the raw rain flies 
level as the missiles of the ancient inhabi- 
tants across the beaked promontory which has 
formed the scene of this narrative, scarcely 
alighting except against the upright sides of 
things sturdy enough to stand erect. One 
person only followed the corpse into the 
church as chief mourner, Jocelyn Pierston — 
fickle lover in the brief, fai thful friend in th e 
long run. No means had been found of com- 
municating with Avice before the interment, 
though the death had been advertised in the 
local and other papers in the hope that it 
might catch her eye. 

x 321 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

So, when the pathetic procession came out 
of the porch and moved round into the grave- 
yard, a hired vehicle from Budmouth was seen 
coming at great speed along the open road 
from Top-o'-Hill. It stopped at the church- 
yard gate, and a young man and woman 
alighted and entered, the vehicle waiting. 
They glided along the path and reached Pier- 
ston's side just as the body was deposited by 
the grave. 

He did not turn his head. He knew it was 
Avice, with Henri Leverre — by this time, he 
supposed, her husband. Her remorseful grief, 
though silent, seemed to impregnate the at- 
mosphere with its heaviness. Perceiving that 
they had not expected him to be there, Pierston 
edged back; and when the service was over he 
kept still farther aloof, an act of considerate- 
ness which she seemed to appreciate. 

Thus, by his own contrivance, neither Avice 
nor the young man held communication with 
Jocelyn by word or by sign. After the burial 
they returned as they had come. 

It w r as supposed that his exposure that day 
in the bleakest church-yard in Wessex, telling 
upon a distracted mental and bodily condition, 
had thrown Pierston into the chill and fever 

322 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

which held him swaying for weeks between life 
and death shortly after his return to town. 
When he had passed the crisis, and began to 
know again that there was such a state as 
mental equilibrium and physical calm, he heard 
a whispered conversation going on around him 
and the touch of footsteps on the carpet. The 
light in the chamber was so subdued that 
nothing around him could be seen with any 
distinctness. Two living figures were present — 
a nurse moving about softly, and a visitor. He 
discerned that the latter was feminine, and for 
the time this was all. 

He was recalled to his surroundings by a 
voice murmuring the inquiry, "Does the light 
try your eyes?" 

The tones seemed familiar ; they were spo- 
ken by the woman who was visiting him. He 
recollected them to be Marcia's, and every- 
thing that had happened before he fell ill came 
back to his mind. 

"Are you helping to nurse me, Marc: 
he 

Y> . I have come up to stay here till you 
are better, as you seem t<> fa I other wom- 

an friend who cares whether you are dead or 
alive. I am Living quite near. I am glad you 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

have got round the corner. We have been 
very anxious. 

" How good you are ! . . . And — have you 
heard of the others ?" 

" They are married. They have been here 
to see you, and are very sorry. She sat by 
you, but you did not know her. She was 
broken down when she discovered her moth- 
er's death, which had never once occurred 
to her as being imminent. They have gone 
away again. I thought it best she should 
leave, now that you are out of danger. Now 
you must be quiet till I come and talk again." 

Pierston was conscious of a singular change 
in himself, which had been revealed by this 
slight discourse. He was no longer the same 
man that he had hitherto been. The malig- 
nant fever, or his. experiences,__Qr__hoth, had 



taken away something from him, and put 
something else in its place. 

During the next days, with further intellect- 
ual expansion, he became clearly aware of 
what this was. The artis ti c sens e_l)acU4eft 
him, and he could-na-longer attach a definite 
sentiment to images of beauty recalled from 

the ,past^ His-^ppreciativeness was capable 

pf exercising itself only on. utilitarian matters, 

324 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

and recollections of Avice's good qualities 
alone had any effect on his mind ; of her ap- 
pearance none at all. 

At first he was appalled ; and then he said, 
"Thank God!" 

Marcia, who, with something of her old ab- 
solutism, came to his house continually to in- 
quire and give orders, and to his room to see 
him every afternoon, found out for herself, in 
the course of his convalescence, this strange 
death of the sensuous side of Jocelyn's nature. 
She had said that Avice was getting extraor- 
dinarily handsome, and that she did not won- 
der her stepson lost his heart to her — an 
inadvertent remark which she immediately 
regretted, in fear lest it should agitate him. 
He merely answered, however, " Yes, I sup- 
pose she is handsome. She's more — a wise 
girl who will make a good housewife in time. 
. . . I wish you were not handsome, Marcia !" 

"Why?" 

" I don't quite know why. Well — it seems 
a stupid quality to me. I can't understand 
what it is good for any more." 

"Oh — I, as a woman, think there's good 
in it. 

" Is there? Then I have lost all conception 

325 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

of it. I don't know what has happened to 
me. I only know I don't regret it. Robinson 
Crusoe lost a day in his illness : I have lost 
a faculty, for which loss Heaven be praised !" 

There was something pathetic in this an- 
nouncement, and Marcia sighed as she said, 
" Perhaps when you get strong it will come 
back to you." 

Pierston shook his head. It then occurred 
to him that never since the reappearance of 
Marcia had he seen her in full daylight, or 
without a bonnet and veil, which she always 
retained on these frequent visits, and that he 
had been unconsciously regarding her as the 
Marcia of their early time, a fancy which the 
small change in her voice well sustained. The 
stately figure, the good color, the classical pro- 
file, the rather large handsome nose and some- 
what prominent, regular teeth, the full dark 
eye, formed still the Marcia of his imagina- 
tion — the queenly creature who had infatu- 
ated him when the first Avice was despised 
and her successors unknown. It was this old 
idea which, in his revolt from beauty, had led 
to his words on her handsomeness. He began 
wondering now how much remained of that 
presentation after forty years. 

326 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

" Why don't you ever let me see you, Mar- 
cia?" he asked. 

" Oh, I don't know ! You mean without my 
bonnet? You have never asked me to, and I 
am obliged to wrap up my face with this wool 
veil because I suffer so from aches in these 
cold winter winds, though a thick veil is awk- 
ward for any one whose sight is not so good 
as it was." 

The impregnable Marcia's sight not so good 
as it was, and her face in the aching stage of life ! 
These simple things came as sermons to Jocelyn. 

" But certainly I will gratify your curiosity," 
she resumed, good-naturedly. " It is really a 
compliment that you should still take that 
sort of interest in me." 

She had moved round from the dark side of 
the room to the lamp — for the daylight had 
gone — and she now suddenly took off the 
bonnet, veil and all. She stood revealed to 
his eyes as remarkably good-looking, consid- 
ering the lapse of years. 

" I am — vexed !" he said, turning his head 
aside impatiently. "You are fair and flve-and- 
thirty — not a day more. You still suggest 
beauty. You won't do as a chastisement, 
Marcia !" 

Y 327 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Ah, but I may! To think that you know- 
woman no better after all this time !" 

"How?" 

" To be so easily deceived. Think : it is 
lamplight ; and your sight is weak at present ; 
and . . . Well, I have no reason for being any- 
thing but candid now, God knows! so I will 
tell you. . . . My husband was younger than 
myself, and he had an absurd wish to make 
people think he had married a young and 
fresh-looking woman. To fall in with his van- 
ity, I tried to look it. We were often in 
Paris, and I became as skilled in beautifying 
artifices as any passte wife of the Faubourg 
St. Germain. Since his death I have kept up 
the practice, partly because the vice is almost 
ineradicable, and partly because I found that 
it helped me with men in bringing up his 
boy on small means. At this moment I am 
frightfully made up. But I can cure that. 
I'll come in to-morrow morning, if it is bright, 
just as I really am ;. you'll find that Time has 
not disappointed you. Remember, I am as 
old as yourself ; and I look it !" 

The morrow came, and with it Marcia, quite 
early, as she had promised. It happened to 
be sunny, and, shutting the bedroom door, she 

328 






A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

went round to the window, where she uncov- 
ered immediately, in his full view, and said, 
" See if I am satisfactory now to you who 
think beauty vain. The rest of me — and it is 
a good deal — lies on my dressing-table at 
home. I shall never put it on again — never !" 

But she was a woman ; and her lips quiv- 
ered, and there was a tear in her eye as she 
exposed the ruthless treatment to which she 
had subjected herself. The cruel morning 
rays — as with Jocelyn under Avice's scrutiny 
— showed in their full bareness, unenriched by 
addition, undisguised by the arts of color and 
shade, the thin remains of what had once 
been Marcia's majestic bloom. She stood 
the image and superscription of Age — an old 
woman, pale and shrivelled, her forehead 
ploughed, her cheek hollow, her hair white as 
snow. To this the face he once kissed had 
been brought by the raspings, chisellings, 
scourgings, bakings, freezings of forty invidi- 
ous years — by the thinkings of more than half 
a lifetime. 

" I am sorry if I shock you," she went on, 
huskily but firmly, as he did not speak; "but 
the moth eats the garment somewhat in such 
an interval." 

329 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

"Yes — yes! . . . Marcia, you are a brave 
woman. You have the courage of the great 
women of history. I can no longer love ; but 
I admire you from my soul !" 

" Don't say I am great. Say I have be- 
gun to be passably honest. It is more than 
enough." 

"Well — I'll say nothing, then, more than 
how wonderful it is that a woman should have 
been able to put back the clock of time thirty 
years !" 

" It shames me now, Jocelyn. I shall never 
do it any more." 

As soon as he was strong enough he got 
her to take him round to his studio in a car- 
riage. The place had been kept aired, but 
the shutters were shut, and they opened 
them themselves. He looked round upon 
the familiar objects — some complete and ma- 
tured, the main of them seedlings, grafts, and 
scions of beauty, waiting for a mind to grow 
to perfection in. 

" No — I don't like them !" he said, turning 
away. " They are as ugliness to me ! I don't 
feel a single touch of kin with or interest in 
any one of them whatever." 

330 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

" Jocelyn — this is sad." 

" No — not at all." He went again towards 
the door. " Now let me look round." He 
looked back, Marcia remaining silent. M The 
Aphrodites — how I insulted her fair form by 
those failures ! — the Freyas, the Nymphs and 
Fauns, Eves, Avices, and other innumerable 
Well-Beloveds — I want to see them never any 
more! . . . ' Instead of sweet smell there shall 
be stink, and there shall be burning instead of 
beauty,' said the prophet." 

And they came away. On another after- 
noon they went to the National Gallery, to 
test his taste in paintings, which had formerly 
been good. As she had expected, it was just 
the same with him there. He saw no more 
to move him, he declared, in the time-defying 
presentations of Perugino, Titian, Sebastiano, 
and other statuesque creators than in the 
work of the pavement artist they had passed 
on their way. 

" It is strange !" said she. 

" I don't regret it. I have lost a faculty 
which has, after all, brought me my greatest 
sorrows, if a few little pleasures. Let us be 
gone." 

He was now so well advanced in conv.ilcs- 

331 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

cence that it was deemed a most desirable 
thing to take him down into his native air. 
Marcia agreed to accompany him. " I don't 
see why I shouldn't," said she. " An old 
friendless woman like me, and you an old 
friendless man." 

" Yes. Thank Heaven I am old at last ! The 
curse is removed !" 

It may be shortly stated here that after his 
departure for the isle Pierston never again saw 
his studio or its contents. He had been down 
there but a brief while when, finding his sense 
of beauty in art and nature absolutely extinct, 
he directed his agent in town to disperse the 
whole collection ; which was done. His lease 
of the building was sold, and in the course of 
time another sculptor won admiration there 
from those who knew not Joseph. The next 
year his name figured on the retired list of 
Academicians. 

As time went on he grew as well as one of 
his age could expect to be after such a blast- 
ing illness, but remained on the isle, in the 
only house he now possessed, a comparatively 
small one at the top of the Street of Wells. 
A growing sense of friendship which it would 

332 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

be foolish to interrupt led him to take a some- 
what similar house for Marcia quite near, and 
remove her furniture thither from Sand- 
bourne. Whenever the afternoon was fine he 
would call for her, and they would take a 
stroll together towards the Beal, or the an- 
cient castle, seldom going the whole way, his 
sciatica and her rheumatism effectually pre- 
venting them, except in the driest atmos- 
pheres. He had now changed his style of 
dress entirely, appearing always in a homely 
suit of local make, and of the fashion of thirty 
years before, the achievement of a tailoress 
at East Quarriers. He also let his iron-gray 
beard grow as it would, and what little hair 
he had left from the baldness which had fol- 
lowed the fever. And thus, numbering in 
years but two-and-sixty, he might have passed 
for seventy-five. 

Though their early adventure as lovers had 
happened so long ago, its history had be- 
come known in the isle with mysterious ra- 
pidity and fulness of detail. The gossip to 
which its bearing on their present friendship 
gave rise was the subject of their conversation 
on one of these walks along the cliffs. 

4< It is extraordinary what an interest our 

333 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

neighbors take in our affairs," he observed. 
" They say, ' those old folk ought to marry ; 
better late than never.' That's how people 
are — wanting to round off other people's his- 
tories in the best machine-made conventional 
manner." 

" Yes. They keep on about it to me, too, 
indirectly." 

" Do they ! I believe a deputation will wait 
upon us some morning, requesting, in the in- 
terests of match-making, that we will please to 
get married as soon as possible. . . . How near 
we were to doing it forty years ago — only you 
were so independent ! I thought you would 
have come back, and was much surprised that 
you didn't." 

" My independent ideas were not blame- 
worthy in me, as an islander, though as a 
kimberlin young lady perhaps they would 
have been. There was simply no reason, from 
an islander's point of view, why I should come 
back, and I didn't. My father kept that view 
before me, and I bowed to his judgment." 

" And so the island ruled our destinies 
though we were not on it. Yes — we are in 
hands not our own. . . . Did you ever tell your 
husband?" 

334 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

"No." 

" Did he ever hear anything?" 

" Not that I am aware." 

Calling upon her one day, he found her in a 
stat^ of great discomfort. In certain gusty 
winds the chimneys of the little house she 
had taken here smoked intolerably, and one 
of these winds was blowing then. Her draw- 
ing-room fire could not be kept burning, and, 
rather than let a woman who suffered from 
rheumatism shiver tireless, he asked her to 
come round and lunch with him as she had 
often done before. As they went he thought, 
not for the first time, how needless it was that 
she should be put to this inconvenience by 
their occupying two houses when one would 
better suit their now constant companionship, 
and disembarrass her of the objectionable 
chimneys. Moreover, by marrying Marcia, 
and establishing a parental relation with the 
young people, the rather delicate business of 
his making them a regular allowance would 
become a natural proceeding. 

And so the zealous wishes of the neighbors 
to give a geometrical shape to their story were 
fulfilled almost in spite of the chief parties 
themselves. When he put the question to her 

335 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

distinctly, Marcia admitted that she had al- 
ways regretted the imperious decision of her 
youth; and she made no ado about accepting 
him. 

" I have no love to give, you know, Marcia, " 
he said. " But such friendship as I am capa- 
ble of is yours till the end." 

" It is nearly the same with me — perhaps 
not quite. But, like the other people, I have 
somehow felt, and you will understand why, 
that I ought to be your wife before I die." 

It chanced that a day or two before the 
ceremony, which was fixed to take place very 
shortly after the foregoing conversation, Mar- 
cia's rheumatism suddenly became acute. The 
attack promised, however, to be only tempo- 
rary, owing to some accidental exposure of 
herself in making preparations for removal, 
and as they thought it undesirable to postpone 
their union for such a reason, Marcia, after 
being well wrapped up, was wheeled into the 
church in a chair. 

A month thereafter, when they were sitting 
at breakfast one morning, Marcia exclaimed, 
" Well — good heavens !" while reading a letter 
she had just received from Avice, who was 

336 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

living with her husband in a house Pierston 
had bought for them at Sandbourne. 

Jocelyn looked up. 

" Why, Avice says she wants to be sepa- 
rated from Henri ! Did you ever hear of such 
a thing? She's coming here about it to-day." 

" Separated? What does the child mean?" 
Pierston read the letter. " Ridiculous non- 
sense !" he continued. " She doesn't know 
what she wants. I say she sha'n't be sepa- 
rated ! Tell her so, and there's an end of it. 
Why, how long have they been married? 
Not twelve months. What will she say when 
they have been married twenty years !" 

Marcia remained reflecting. " I think that 
remorseful feeling she unluckily has at times, 
of having disobeyed her mother and caused 
her death, makes her irritable," she murmured. 
" Poor child !" 

Lunch-time had hardly come when Avice 
arrived, looking very tearful and excited. Mar- 
cia took her into an inner room, had a conver- 
sation with her, and they came out together. 

" Oh, it's nothing," said Marcia. " I tell her 
she must go back directly she has had some 
luncheon." 

"Ah, that's all very well !" sobbed Avice. 

Y 337 



THE WELL-BELOVED 

" B-b-but if you two had been m-married so 
long as I have, y-you wouldn't say go back 
like that!" 

" What is it all about?" inquired Pierston. 

" He said that if he were to die I — I — should 
be looking out for somebody with fair hair and 
gray eyes, just — just to spite him in his grave, 
because he's dark, and he's quite sure I don't 
like dark people ! And then he said — But I 
won't be so treacherous as to tell any more 
about him ! I wish — " 

" Avice, your mother did this very thing. 
And she went back. Now you are to do the 
same. Let me see; there's a train — " 

" She must have something to eat first. Sit 
down, dear." 

The question was settled by the arrival of 
Henri himself at the end of luncheon, with a 
very anxious and pale face. Pierston went 
off to a business meeting, and left the young 
couple to adjust their differences in their own 
way. 

His business was, among kindred under- 
takings which followed the extinction of the 
Well-Beloved and other ideals, to advance a 
scheme for the closing of the old natural 
fountains in the Street of Wells, because of 

338 



A YOUNG MAN TURNED SIXTY 

their possible contamination, and supplying 
the townlet with water from pipes — a scheme 
that was carried out at his expense, as is well 
known. He was also engaged in acquiring 
some old moss-grown, mullioned Elizabethan 
cottages, for the purpose of pulling them down 
because they were damp ; which he afterwards 
did, and built new ones, with hollow walls and 
full of ventilators. 

At present he is sometimes mentioned as 
" the late Mr. Pierston " by gourd-like young 
art critics; and his productions are alluded to 
as those of a man not without genius, whose 
powers were insufficiently recognized in his 
lifetime. 



THE END 



80 22 90 220 



PR 

4 750 AVoo 1905 

The well-beloved: sketch of a 

temperament / 

Hardv Thomas 1840-1928. 



H404I